The Brooklyn district attorney's office on Thursday announced a new task force aimed at reducing anti-gay violence amid a string of high-profile incidents in the city.
District Attorney Charles Hynes said a hotline has been established where victims can call to receive support and to report incidents they may be uncomfortable discussing with police. Hotline workers will receive additional sensitivity training on how to deal with gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual crime victims.
Thirty social workers are available to help victims cope. Members of the task force can also help provide temporary housing, among other things.
Victims' information will be used to prosecute crimes.
However, "there doesn't have to be a specific crime for people to reach out to us," said Beth Scullin, the director of the victim services unit. "It doesn't just have to be about prosecution."
Charles Guria, chief of the civil rights bureau, said he would be notified personally when an attack is reported, and stressed the importance of coming forward. Prosecutors believe anti-gay bullying and attacks are often under reported. The task force will also work to educate local businesses on how to promote safety for the community.
There has been a slight increase in reports of anti-gay attacks in New York this year amid a series of high profile incidents, including the assaults on two teens and two men in the Bronx that city officials called one of the worst cases of anti-gay violence in recent memory.
Hynes also mentioned a man in Brooklyn who hanged himself, posting on his Facebook page before his death that it was too difficult to be gay.
The parents of Michael Sandy, who was ambushed and chased into traffic during a mugging in 2006, attended the news conference. In what prosecutors called a hate-inspired robbery scheme, three men found Sandy in an Internet chat room frequented by gay men, lured him out to New York's remote Plum Beach with a promise of a date and attacked him. The men were convicted and are serving time jail time in his death.
Sandy's parents praised the district attorney's effort.
Hate crimes, said Ezekiel Sandy, are "despicable and should not happen."