New York City has seen a stunning increase in hate crimes compared to 2020, according to the NYPD team that tracks the numbers, a troubling rise that has been fueled mostly by anti-Asian and antisemitic crime.
Hate crimes across the five boroughs are up a whopping 100 percent in 2021 compared to the previous year, with 503 tallied thus far. That compares to just 22 in 2020.
"We put these statistics out, it can often alarm the public, nothing is more important to us than these cases, that's why they have higher penalties. Because it's not just about one person, it's meant to attack an entire group or class," said NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea.
Crimes considered to be anti-Asian or antisemitic far and away make up the largest portion of the inflated numbers, with anti-Asian crime up 361 percent. There have been 129 anti-Asian crimes, according to the NYPD, and 183 antisemitic crimes.
A hate crimes review panel was created earlier in 2021 after an alarming number of assaults against the Asian community took place, spurred on by COVID-19 misinformation. The panel, which meets once a month, also reviewed anti-gay, anti-Muslim and anti-Black incidents. Having reviewed more than 100 crimes to date, only two cases were found that involved what loosely appeared to be swastikas which were initially deemed not to be hate crimes, but were later deemed acts of bias.
"It clearly walked like a duck, looked like a duck, and we decided unanimously that this was a swastika," said Devorah Halberstam, who is on the task force.
NYPD Chief James Essig, who heads the task force, said what investigators have learned regarding bias incidents has helped them become better equipped at fighting hate.
The task force is still looking for suspects in four recent cases, including one where a man on a bicycle hurled anti-Asian slurs at a woman in midtown Manhattan. Three women or girls are also wanted for hitting and shoving three Jewish children in separate Brooklyn attacks — with one of the victims just 3 years old.
"It's a pattern of hate crimes and particularly disturbing because of the age of the victims," said Essig.