Brooklyn’s top lawman is getting tough on hate.
Hate crimes are up across the borough, particularly those targeting Jews and Muslims, and District Attorney Ken Thompson has created a special unit dedicated to investigating and prosecuting bigoted acts. Addressing the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, the prosecutor appealed to the assembled businesspeople’s concern for the bottom line.
“Bias-related violence is ugly,” he said. “It threatens to rip apart the fabric of society, and it’s bad for business. The hate crimes unit is there to show our resolve as a community of different neighborhoods, different cultures, that no matter who you are as you walk down the streets of Brooklyn that you a free of the fear of being attacked because of who you are.”
In early September, Thompson tapped Assistant District Attorney Marc Fliedner to head up the unit, called the Civil Rights Bureau. Fliedner is a veteran at the District Attorney’s Office, having worked under former borough prosecutors Charles Hynes and Elizabeth Holtzman from 1987 to 1992, and again starting in 2006. Before his appointment, Fliedner had worked in the sex crimes and homicide bureaus, and led the major crimes bureau since 2011. The legal eagle is also the office’s liaison to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer community. Fliedner said he will hit the ground running in his latest position.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with this appointment,” Fliedner said in a statement. “I am determined to help make the Civil Rights Bureau in the Brooklyn DA’s office the finest in the country.”
A number of high-profile hate crimes have occurred in the borough this year, including a rash of anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim attacks and harassment incidents that flared up over the summer during the war in and around Gaza and advances in Syria and Iraq by the so-called Islamic State extremist group.
Anti-Semitic crimes went from eight a month to 18 a month citywide starting in July, and there have been 17 crimes targeting Muslims so far this year, compared to seven during the same period last year, according to a Sept. 17 WNYC report.
In one instance, cops say a combat veteran kicked a pregnant Pakistani mother in Marine Park and told her to “go back to Afghanistan.” In another, a vandal spray-painted a swastika on the American Legion building in Gravesend.
Attacks have also targeted gay people, as in the Saturday shooting in Bushwick where, according to police, three men harassed a group dressed in drag, then one opened fire, hitting a member of the group in the buttocks.
A police spokeswoman emphasized that many crimes categorized as bias incidents are not acts of physical violence but rather consist of vandalism and harassment.
There have been 105 reported hate crimes in Brooklyn so far this year, a 38 percent jump from the 76 reported crimes in the same time period in 2013.
The increase is new, but Brooklyn led the city in hate crimes from 2008 to 2012, with 607 in that period record compared to Manhattan, the borough with the next-highest total, 383.