Children may be the future, but it may be a future filled with racial hate, mistrust and violence.
That's what a collection of borough religious leaders were warned of last week during a special roundtable discussion about hate crimes at Kings County Supreme Court.
"We are noticing that an alarming number of [hate crimes] are being committed by juveniles," said Charles Guria, chief of the Civil Rights and Police Integrity Bureau of the Kings County District Attorney's office. "We hear about a case and we think that it will be coming to us, but the case is instead sent to Family Court because juveniles are sent to Family Court and the lawyers that handle these cases are members of the city's Corporation Counsel."
According to officials, up to six of the major bias crimes in the borough last year were committed by juveniles.
In the latest headline-grabbing incident, which happened in September, four black youths ranging in age from 11 to 15 attacked a 12-year-old white child on the 6500 block of Veterans Avenue in Bergen Beach, knocking him to the ground and taking his cell phone.
During the robbery, police said that the suspects called the victim a "cracker" as they robbed him.
The pre-teen thieves were rounded up and arrested on Monday, October 3, charged with robbery and aggravated harassment as a hate crime. The 15-year-old suspect was arrested a few hours later.
So far, the worst juvenile hate crime was in Marine Park last spring, where a group of young teens were arrested for attacking for white girls over the use of a basketball court.
As of this writing, that case was still to be adjudicated in Family Court.
According to recent statistics, 75 percent of the suspects arrested for hate crimes are males between 16 and 21 years old, said members of the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force, although last year saw an odd increase in the number of juvenile suspects.
Guria said that officials from the Kings County District Attorney's Office are already trying to get to the students to explain what bias crimes are and the consequences of those who use "hate speak."
"We are trying to get to them before some hard-core hate sets in," said Guria, who added that hate-mongers are actively trying to get their message out to younger and younger children. "We're trying to keep [kids] from going down the wrong path."
"We've even found a website in Staten Island that is designed to preach hate to young white girls," he said. "Whoever is putting out the website is doing so in the hopes of influencing young white girls who would then influence their children."
Joining Guria at the Roundtable Discussion on Hate Crimes was Deputy Inspector Michael Osgood, the commanding officer of the NYPD's Hate Crime Task Force, who said that bias or hate crimes in the city have dropped by 50 percent since the creation of the Task Force in 2000.
Still, someone who commits a true hate crime does not just want to infuriate his intended victim, but the entire community, he said.
"In a hate crime, an entire group is victimized," said Osgood. "There is heightened emotion...a heightened sense of anger. That's why we have a special hate crimes unit to catch these bad guys."
Osgood said that citywide, 239 crimes were investigated by the NYPD Hate Crime Task Force - an eight percent drop from the 267 reported in 2004.
The 2004 number is five percent less than the number of hate crimes logged with the NYPD in 2003, he said.
In Brooklyn, there were 99 hate crimes reported to authorities last year -- just one less than the 100 the NYPD investigated in 2004.
Of the 99 hate crimes that occurred, 34 were considered anti-Semitic, 12 were anti-black and seven were catalogued as anti-white. Fourteen of the hate crimes were sparked by a bias against the victim's sexual preference, said Osgood.
Each of the bias crimes investigated had to pass a litmus test, said Osgood. Each complaint is scrutinized to see if the action taken was in fact a crime, if there is evidence that proves that the crime was racially motivated and, most importantly, if the victim's identity was the main reason why the crime was committed.
"It's very rare that a person's hate or prejudice against another person rises to the level of criminality," said Osgood. "We have a city of eight million people, but we only had 287 bias crimes reported last year. More people bump into each other in the street every minute of every day,"
Osgood said that the low number of bias crimes "shows that most people are very respectful to each other."
The discussion, sponsored by the Kings County Supreme Court, was designed to help Brooklyn religious leaders learn more about the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes in New York City.
©2006 Community News Group
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