Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez yesterday announced the creation of a dedicated Hate Crimes Bureau, staffed with senior and experienced prosecutors who will follow investigations from the beginning and enhance charges when appropriate.
The Bureau will also be reaching out to vulnerable communities to educate their members about their rights and how to protect themselves from bias-motivated attacks. The Brooklyn DA’s Hate Crimes Unit was previously part of the Civil Rights Bureau.
“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. 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. This diverse group of assistant district attorneys will also work with community members to improve trust and cooperation,” said Gonzalez.
Recent crime statistics have indicated an uptick in reported hate crimes across New York City, with over half targeting Jewish people. The Brooklyn DA’s Office’s Hate Crimes Unit handled over 70 cases in the past two years with the top targeted groups being LGBTQ individuals (34%), Jews (30%) and African-Americans (14%).
The Hate Crimes Bureau is dedicated to investigating and prosecuting crimes that are motivated, in whole or in substantial part, by a belief or perception regarding the race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation of the victim, regardless of whether the belief or perception is correct.
ADA Kelli Muse, formerly the Deputy Chief of the Civil Rights Bureau and Hate Crimes Unit, has been appointed Chief of the Hate Crimes Bureau. Senior ADA Ari Farkas has been named Deputy Chief. He previously served as a grand jury supervisor in the Grey Zone Trial Bureau, which covers parts of Williamsburg, Borough Park and other neighborhoods. The rest of the Bureau’s diverse staff include ADAs Peter Choi, Prabhalya Pulim, Maggie Dunbar and Adrianna Rodriguez.
In an effort to enhance prosecutions whenever appropriate, prosecutors from the Hate Crimes Bureau will assist in investigations by going to crime scenes and interviewing victims and witnesses at early stages of cases, working closely with members of the NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force. They will also conduct independent investigations. Additionally, they will expand to conduct vigorous outreach, which includes educational sessions and reaching out to communities that are targeted by bias-motivated crimes in order to increase prevention and share information about how we handle such cases.
Creating a single point of contact for hate crime charges that will assist the police and communicate with the community is part of DA Gonzalez’s Justice 2020 action plan, which also calls for including a multi-lingual and diverse staff with ongoing culturally-specific training and connections to vulnerable populations. Creating this dedicated Hate Crimes Bureau serves an important foundation that will help in achieving these goals.
The Brooklyn DA’s Office operates a Hate Crimes Hotline at 718-250-4949.