DA debuts dedicated Hate Crimes Bureau following spike in anti-Semitic, other biased crimes

Top prosecutor: Gov. Cuomo announced that Eric Gonzalez will remain the borough’s District Attorney until the 2017 election.
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez.

A dedicated team of prosecutors will now investigate hate crimes in Kings County, following a recent uptick in bigoted attacks against Brooklynites, the district attorney said.

“Protecting everyone in Brooklyn is my highest priority, and it is simply unacceptable that members of certain protected groups are fearful to walk the streets of our borough,” said Eric Gonzalez. “The creation of a dedicated bureau with more resources and experienced prosecutors will help my office to offer the most adequate response to the growing problem of bias-motivated crimes.”

The new Hate Crimes Bureau, which Gonzalez announced on Tuesday, previously operated as a unit within his office’s Civil Rights Bureau. But both bureaus will now operate independently as each division works to beef up its staff, according to a law-enforcement source.

The attorneys will work with the Police Department’s Hate Crimes Task Force to investigate any bias-motivated offenses, prosecute the bigots who commit them, and educate vulnerable communities about how to protect themselves from such incidents, according to Gonzalez, who tapped the Civil Rights Bureau’s former head, assistant district attorney Kelli Muse, to lead the Hate Crimes Bureau’s staff.

The district attorney’s office investigated some 70 hate-crime cases over the past two years, the perpetrators of which predominantly targeted victims in Brooklyn’s LGBTQ, Jewish, and black communities, according to Gonzalez, who said more than half of the recently reported bias-related incidents targeted Jewish people.

Last week, authorities on Dec. 4 arrested and charged a Bedford-Stuyvesant man with a hate crime after he allegedly punched a Jewish man wearing a shtreimel — a fur hat often worn by Hasidic Jews on the Sabbath — in the head in Williamsburg, injuring him about two hours after Shabbat began at sundown on Nov. 30.

That suspect’s arrest came days after some other bigots, whom cops are still searching for, attacked another Jewish man on his way to a synagogue in Crown Heights on Dec. 1.

And those incidents followed no less than three other anti-Semitic crimes in the County of Kings, including a still at-large teen punching a 9-year-old wearing what police said was “traditional Jewish attire” in the face in Williamsburg on Nov. 25; a Bedford-Stuyvesant man’s alleged vandalism spree at Prospect Heights and Williamsburg Jewish sites on Nov. 1 and 2; and two teenagers scrawling swastikas and a racist slur on some Brooklyn Heights homes on Oct. 30, a crime they later turned themselves in for.

Victims can file a complaint with the district attorney by the Hate Crimes hotline at (718) 250–4949.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.

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