(The Center Square) — New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is pushing to expand the state’s hate crime laws and make more money available for security at houses of worship amid an uptick in anti-Semitic and anti-Islamic incidents.
Included in Hochul’s budget plan, unveiled this week, is a proposal to expand the list of offenses eligible for prosecution as hate crimes to nearly 100 by adding offenses such as graffiti, arson, gang assault, first-degree rape, criminal possession of a weapon and sex trafficking. Under current law, there are only 66 offenses that can be charged as hate crimes.
The governor also calls for more funds for the Securing Communities Against Hate initiative, which provides security grants to churches, synagogues and mosques to harden their infrastructure against attacks. Hochul’s budget plan proposes boosting that funding to $35 million – a $10 million increase over the previous fiscal year.
“The rising tide of hate is abhorrent and unacceptable – and I’m committed to doing everything in my power to keep New Yorkers safe,” the Democrat said in remarks earlier this week. “Since the despicable Hamas attacks of October 7, there has been a disturbing rise in hate crimes against Jewish and Muslim New Yorkers.”
Antisemitic and anti-Muslim hate incidents and crimes have skyrocketed in New York and nationally since the war between Israel and Hamas began, according to advocacy groups, who say some of the confrontations have been violent.
The data shows the uptick in violence and intimidation against Jewish and Arab Americans has coincided with the Middle East conflict and comes in the wake of an increase in hate crimes nationally in recent years.
New York authorities said the number of bias incidents investigated by the NYPD Hate Crime Task Force increased by 124% in October, led by a 214% spike in anti-Jewish incidents.
In 2022, police departments and sheriffs’ offices reported 959 hate crimes to New York state, the most reported in the past five years, and a 20% increase compared to 2021, according to state data.
There have also been several high-profile attacks on Muslim and Palestinian New Yorkers, with hate crimes against Asian New Yorkers remaining elevated over the past few years.
Hochul has pledged support for Israel following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack that killed more than 1,400 Israelis, even criticizing pro-Palestinan protests, but she has also decried acts of discrimination and hate in the wake of the conflict.
She has also directed state police to monitor potential targets in the state, including synagogues, yeshivas, Jewish museums and cultural centers and other at-risk sites.
In 2023, the state Division of Criminal Justice Services awarded grants from the SCAH fund to nearly 500 organizations for projects totaling $51 million, according to the agency.
Syndicated with permission from The Center Square.