NEW YORK- Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled on Thursday a new plan of action in order to combat antisemitism and hate crimes across the state of New York, including a $25 Million grant for schools to improve security, $5,000 rewards for any Information leading to arrest and conviction for a hate crime, and a new hate crimes text line to report incidents.
The governor made the announcement during a press conference held at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in downtown Manhattan, just after holding a roundtable discussion with representatives of the Jewish community and leaders of other faiths.
"New York must always be the beacon of tolerance and hope for all, and with the recent explosion of antisemitism and hate crimes, it is more important than ever before that we do everything in our power to ensure the safety and equal treatment of all New Yorkers," he said.
"Any acts of bias or discrimination will be met with the full force of the law. New York is and always has been a place that celebrates diversity and religious tolerance, and we say to all New Yorkers who feel unsafe – we will always protect you."
The $25 million grant program for schools, which is part of the new measures taken, is intended to “boost safety and security at New York’s schools and daycare centers at risk of hate crimes or attacks because of their ideology, beliefs or mission.”
The grant program will provide funding for security upgrades such as additional security training, cameras, technology, door-hardening, improved lighting and others.
At the Governor’s direction, the state will also expand its toll-free hotline to include text message capability to report incidents of bias and discrimination. The hotline had been launched in November and has received over 3,175 calls to date.
Lastly, the $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction for a hate crime, the governor explained, aims to make sure the public is engaged in the cause.
“We encourage [New Yorkers] to step up if they see it, be part of the solution,” Cuomo said. “We are offering the reward to encourage that but it’s not going to require much encouragement because I know that 99.9 percent of the people in this state are sickened by what they are seeing.”
In recent months, many organizations fighting discrimination such as the Anti-Defamation League, have warned against a rise in hate crimes across the country.
According to Cuomo’s office, in New York State, there was a 31 percent increase in reported hate crimes targeting Muslims in 2016 compared to 2015 and an 18 percent increase in reported hate crimes against LGBTQ individuals.
As far as the Jewish community is concerned, in addition to hate crimes, bomb threats have also recently surfaced. Dozens of Jewish Community Centers across the US as well as the ADL’s headquarters have received such threats multiple times over the last month.
According to Governor Cuomo, these are not isolated incidents and the hate crimes are part of a clear pattern.
The governor also noted that the rise in hate crimes begun in November, which correlates to the date of the election of US President Donald Trump, but maintained he wants to “keep this out of politics”.
“I think it’s undeniable that the political tone from last year has created extreme views on both sides of the political spectrum and I think that’s one of the factors,” he said. “But whatever caused it, our focus is on ending it.”
Thursday’s announcement adds to Governor Cuomo’s recent actions to combat bias and discrimination. In November, he directed the State Police to create a new Hate Crimes Unit to offer assistance to other law enforcement agencies investigating potential hate crimes.