NYPD Links Hate Crimes Increase to 2016 Presidential Campaign

  • Post-election incidents are up 42% compared with last year
  • NYC Mayor de Blasio has blamed Trump’s rhetoric for the trend

Hate crimes in New York City, particularly against Jews, have spiked in the past 100 days, a trend police officials say is probably connected to ethnic bias and xenophobia that emerged during the 2016 election campaign.

Between the Nov. 8 election and Feb. 19, the New York Police Department received 143 hate-crime complaints, 42 percent more than during the same period a year earlier. Seventy-two of the post-election offenses targeted Jews, compared with 39 a year earlier, according to data provided by the department. 

The spate of incidents in New York -- home to more Jews than anywhere except Israel -- mirrors a trend throughout the U.S. and western Europe. Recent incidents include the desecration of more than 170 graves at a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis earlier this month, and more than 50 bomb threats made to Jewish community centers in 26 states in the past 60 days, according to the Anti-Defamation League, which received a Feb. 22 telephoned bomb threat at its Manhattan headquarters. 

“Based on the timing and the extraordinary increase we’ve been seeing, not only in New York but around the nation, you have to conclude that the presidential campaign was the major factor,” said Stephen Davis, the NYPD’s deputy commissioner for public information. “To be cautious about casting blame, one would have to consider the heated nature of the rhetoric on both sides” during the election.

Extra Security

Responding to a similar upswing in crimes throughout New York state, Governor Andrew Cuomo on Feb. 23 offered a $5,000 reward to anyone giving information to help arrest perpetrators, and $25 million to religious schools to pay for security cameras and other protective measures. He also deployed extra state police to investigate such incidents.

Republican Donald Trump’s candidacy drew unsolicited support from white supremacist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. He attracted criticism for television ads decrying “global special interests” and depicting Democrat Hillary Clinton with Jewish business leaders such as Goldman Sachs Group Inc. chief executive officer Lloyd Blankfein, hedge fund investor George Soros, and Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen.

Trump’s appointment of Stephen Bannon, a former executive with the conservative website Breitbart News, as chief White House strategist drew more criticism, while the ADL questioned the president’s judgment in observing Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan. 27 without mentioning the Nazis’ systematic deportation and murder of six million Jews. By the time Trump condemned a national wave of threats against Jewish centers with a statement on Feb. 21, he’d already waved off two questions on the subject at news conferences, once describing himself as “the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen.”

‘Welcome Door’

“I don’t recall a time when white supremacists have felt they have a more welcome door in the White House,” said Oren Segal, director of the ADL’s Center on Extremism in New York. “While bomb threats are not new, the sheer number is new. Haters are emboldened and the internet has given them broader impact. They feel their ideas are more welcome than ever before.”

Cuomo, a Democrat mentioned as a possible 2020 presidential candidate, declined to hold Trump responsible for the outbreak, saying “I want to keep this out of politics to the greatest level I can.”

In New York City, however, where almost 90 percent of voters rejected Trump’s presidential bid, Mayor Bill de Blasio has blamed the president’s rhetoric for inflaming ethnic hate.

‘Hateful Rhetoric’

“No one should mince words about it,” de Blasio, who’s running for re-election this year, said at a Feb. 17 news conference. “The horrible, hateful rhetoric that was used in this election by candidate Trump and by a lot of his supporters directly connects to an increase since the election in anti-Semitic incidents, anti-Muslim incidents, and anti-LGBT incidents.”

Of 72 anti-Jewish acts in New York City since Election Day, police classify 40 as criminal mischief, such as Nazi swastikas scrawled as graffiti on subways or buildings, 22 as aggravated harassment, four as assaults, and three as terroristic threats. Among other groups targeted during the 105-day span, 16 involved sexual orientation, 13 attacked Muslims, and 12 were directed against blacks, according to the department’s Davis. 

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