Tags Posts tagged with "Hate Crime"

Hate Crime

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This press release was updated Nov. 18 to reflect two additional arrests.

Suffolk County Police have arrested four people for burglarizing a Shirley elementary school in September.

Four males entered Hobart S. Elementary School, located at 230 Van Buren St., on September 26 during which they stole food and drew racist graffiti on cabinets and a classroom whiteboard. Following community tips and an investigation by Hate Crimes Unit detectives, Aydan Dellysse-Fox, 19 of Shirley and Salvatore Davis, 19, of Mastic Beach were arrested for the burglary. Two juveniles from Shirley, a 17-year-old S male and a 16-year-old Shirley male were arrested a few days later.

“One of the most valuable tools the Suffolk County Police Department utilizes is its outreach to the community through Crime Stoppers,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney K. Harrison said. “Following the issuance of a Crime Stoppers Alert on this case, an arrest was made within days due to helpful information called into the anonymous hotline. In addition to thanking residents for their support in this case, I commend the detectives of the Hate Crimes Unit for their diligence on this burglary.”

The investigation is continuing. Anyone with information on the other subjects involved in this case are asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS. All calls will remain confidential.

A criminal charge is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

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Update:The Crime Stoppers fast cash reward is up to $5,000 and will be issued within seven days of an
arrest. Additionally, investigators are releasing new photos and video of the incident.
Visit YouTube.com/scpdtv and click on Wanted for Ronkonkoma Arson/Hate Crime 22-377716

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers, Suffolk County Police Hate Crimes Unit and Arson Section detectives are seeking the public’s help to identify and locate the person or people who damaged a sign at a Ronkonkoma mosque.

An ignited device was placed near or thrown at a sign on the property of Masjid Fatima Al-Zahra Mosque, located at 55 Lake Shore Road, on July 4 at approximately midnight. The mosque building was not damaged and no one was injured.

Detectives are asking anyone who was in the area, including at Lt. Michael Murphy Memorial Park, between 10 p.m. on July 3 and midnight to call police.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about these incidents can contact Suffolk County Crime Stoppers to submit an anonymous tip by calling 1-800-220-TIPS, utilizing a mobile app which can be downloaded through the App Store or Google Play by searching P3 Tips, or online at www.P3Tips.com. All calls, text messages and emails will be kept confidential.

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Suffolk County Police have arrested a Huntington man for allegedly spray painting a political sign with a swastika.

A swastika, “187,” and the word “Gambino,” were found painted onto a Lee Zeldin campaign sign, located on the corner of West Pulaski Road and Oakwood Road in Huntington Station, on June 26 at approximately 10:05 a.m.

After an investigation, Hate Crimes Unit detectives arrested Vincent J. Mckie outside his home on Oakwood Road on June 28 at 12:25 p.m..

Mckie, 41, was charged with Aggravated Harassment 1st Degree, a hate crime, and Criminal Mischief 4th Degree. He will be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip on a later date.

A criminal charge is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Photo by Jason Leung/Unsplash

By Lisa Scott

Since 2015, Christians, Jews and Muslims have come together in dialogue as Abraham’s Table of Long Island, seeking understanding, solidarity and common purpose. Recently 100 people attended “If You See Something, Say Something …  Confronting Hate on Long Island Today.”

Speakers shared personal stories of how hatred is on the rise, intensifying and escalating here on Long Island. League of Women Voters representatives shared a table with Catholic nuns and Protestant clergy, and we met many social justice group members as well as  concerned individuals. 

The Suffolk Y Jewish Community Center and the Turkish Cultural Center provided an Iftar dinner breaking the Muslim Ramadan fast for all attending. The speakers reflected this diversity, teaching us that hate knows no bounds and will continue to grow unless each of us takes responsibility and speaks out. Whether or not you identify with an organized religion, the words and experiences shared that evening should move each of us to connect, speak, witness, protest and advocate. 

There were calls to action regarding rising hate against Jewish, Black, Latinx, Muslim, Asian and LGBTQ+ people in our communities. Eric Post, LI Director of the American Jewish Committee, noted that Jews are two percent of the American population yet (according to the Suffolk County Police) 61% of hate incidents overall were anti-Semitic and 93.5% of religious hate crimes were anti-Semitic in nature. He then introduced a young Jewish man who suffered a violent assault in Manhattan who spoke of the attack and subsequent trauma.  

Tracey Edwards, Long Island Regional Director of the NAACP NYS Conference, said that Long Island has two problems. “Residents are reluctant to report hate crimes, and when they do the police departments and district attorneys make a predetermination of intent before they do a proper investigation and charge a hate crime.” Thus hate crime data is reported as down or not counted on Long Island while national data shows an increase across the country. “We cannot fix the problem if we don’t acknowledge that we have a problem.”

On a personal level, David Kilmnick of the LGBT Network of Long Island reported a decade of hate letters and threats to the police for investigation, but the FBI was kept unaware during those years. Jocelo Lucero, who has presented programs to thousands of Long Island students, spoke against hate crimes and for tolerance. He is the brother of Ecuadorean immigrant Marcelo Lucero who in 2008 was fatally stabbed in Patchogue after he and a friend were surrounded by seven teenagers who had gone out looking to attack Latinos; a bias crime that drew national attention to Suffolk County. 

Also presenting were Dr. Isma Chaudhry of the Islamic Center of Long Island and Soh Young Lee-Segredo of the Asian Pacific American Council of Educators.

Hate is real and hate crimes are growing whether we hear about them or not, yet all of us are to some degree complicit in “tolerating” a climate of hate in our communities. Passivity and words and racist jokes have been seeds of violence and even genocide through the centuries.  Social conditions give rise to hate, such as the need to scapegoat or blame “the other”— people who look or speak or worship or think or act different — for our social and personal troubles. 

Economic downturns and inflation;  COVID’s myriad effects on health, emotional well-being, and family cohesion; massive migrations of people fleeing violence all over the world; misinformation and magnification of perceived threats to long-held beliefs and values; a personal sense of danger due to increased crime and the prevalence of gun violence; falling status and insecurity leading to feelings of less “worthy’ people taking our place; all are contributing factors to the rise of hate in 2022. Silence is not an option. 

Connect with a “stranger”; teach and live diversity, equity and inclusion in your families, schools, congregations, workplaces and communities; speak up when you hear hateful speech; report acts of hate to school officials or police; demand that government enact laws and policies to stop hate; support organizations that work against hate; participate in public vigils and rallies to protest hate and write letters to the editor that condemn acts of hate on Long Island.

Thanks to Richard Koubek, Chair of Abraham’s Table of LI, www.abrahamstableli.org, and to his Steering Committee and program presenters for guidance, inspiration, witness and work. Let’s all actively combat hate now — the next generation deserves no less.

Lisa Scott is president of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, visit https://my.lwv.org/new-york/suffolk-county or call 631-862-6860.

Nissequogue River. File photo by Rita J. Egan

New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is calling for state police officers to investigate who is behind anti-Semitic graffiti discovered in Nissequogue River State Park.

A photo of the swastika discovered in Nissequogue River State Park. Photo from NYS PD

New York State police received a call Feb. 10 from a jogger who discovered a swastika and a hateful white supremacist slogan written in chalk along the bike path in Kings Park.

“This abhorrent act of hate is deeply disturbing, especially at a time of great division and in the wake of the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in this nation’s history,” Cuomo said.

The governor’s remarks referenced the shooting at The Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in October 2018 that killed 11 people.

“The message is deeply troubling to those who live in Kings Park community and all those who continue the fight against hated,” state Sen. John Flanagan (R-Smithtown) said in a statement. “I want to make it clear that all elected officials and community leaders are united in saying that hateful symbols must never be tolerated and those responsible must and will be held accountable for their actions.

The state police’s Hate Crimes Unit is investigating the matter. Anyone who may have any information on the vandalism is asked to call 631-756-3300.

Rocky Point mother Robin Siefert is upset nothing was done after her 9-year-old daughter found a note on her desk containing several expletives (which have been removed from the photo), a swastika and Adolf Hitler’s name. Photo from Robin Siefert

Not long after Rocky Point mother Robin Siefert spoke to the school board about an anti-Semitic note left on her 9-year-old daughter’s desk March 23 at Joseph A. Edgar Intermediate School, U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) picked up the phone.

Zeldin, one of two Jewish Republicans in Congress, has 10-year-old twin daughters and reached out to Siefert as soon as he got wind of her situation, saying, “It hit very close to home.”

Rocky Point mother Robin Siefert is upset nothing was done after her 9-year-old daughter found a note on her desk containing hate speech. Photo by Kevin Redding

“I wanted to see if there was anything I could do to assist,” Zeldin, a regular at the school’s annual Veterans Day assembly, said after his call with Siefert. “I could tell I was talking to a very loving mother passionately advocating for her daughter, and trying to be strong through a challenge that negatively impacted a young, innocent child.”

He said he felt it was important the issue be combated aggressively at its source, saying someone who draws a swastika may be inclined to do it again, or more, in the future.

“There can’t really be a tolerance for it, or it’s only going to grow,” he said.

Siefert, who will be meeting with the board again in executive session May 16, said of Zeldin’s call, “It was just very nice to know my congressman cared about the situation … I have a lot of gratitude. I still can’t believe this happened to my child, but [she’s] starting to get a little better.”

The note in question, written by a classmate of Siefert’s daughter, included three obscenities, a swastika and Adolf Hitler’s name.

Siefert argued during a board meeting April 19 that not enough was done at the administrative level to comfort her daughter, inform the parents of the incident or find the student responsible for the note.

According to Rocky Point school district superintendent, Michael Ring, a thorough investigation has been conducted since the March 23 incident occurred, and there’s been transparency between school and parents.

“The police were contacted by the district regarding the matter and information provided thereon,” Ring wrote in an email. “Parents of all students in the class were contacted by the teacher at the time of the incident. Counselors have gone into the classroom to speak about tolerance, acceptance and respect. None of this was done in response to Mrs. Siefert speaking at the [board of education] meeting. All of this was put into place after and as a result of the incident, which the school and district took very seriously.”

Conversely, Siefert said, “This is all because I went in front of the board and said what I said. All these things happened after I spoke.”

Ring noted the school has continued to employ all its existing and ongoing character education and anti-bullying initiatives, including Six Pillars of Character and Social Skills/Friendship Groups and Caring Connections.

He said as recent as May 9, officers in the Suffolk County Police Department conducted an anti-bullying presentation to all grades at Joseph A. Edgar.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin reached out to a Rocky Point mom over an anti-Semitic note her daughter received. File photo

“I’m glad they’re being proactive now,” said Siefert, who claims she, not the school, was the one who filed a police report after the incident. “But I’d be much happier if the kid who did this to my daughter was put in counseling and punished appropriately.”

Zeldin agreed. According to his staff, the district’s efforts to find the student responsible were outlined, but ultimately the district, as well as police, believe “there is not enough evidence to take action.”

It will, however, “continue to follow proper protocol and work with the family on this case.”

“In alignment with our anti-harassment and code of conduct policies, proven instances of bullying are treated extremely seriously and age-appropriate discipline is put in place in response to such incidents,” Ring wrote. “This is a continuing investigation.”

On April 24, Linda Towlen, principal at Joseph A. Edgar, sent a letter to parents of students in a fifth-grade class informing them of an April 21 incident where small swastikas were found on a bathroom sign-out sheet.

According to the letter, “a thorough investigation has been undertaken to determine the source of these unacceptable symbols” and “as is our protocol … the Suffolk County Police were notified and a report filed.”

After this most recent incident, the school implemented the Second Step program in the classroom that deals with bullying and teasing.

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Schools are not immune to intolerance and violence, and school district administration shouldn’t be turning a blind eye and leave hate crime behavior unanswered.

Last week, several parents were up in arms at a Rocky Point board of education meeting due to a lack of communication between the school and parents. One mother reached out to administrators last month when her daughter found a note on her desk that had been covered in animosity. On the Post-It were various obscenities, a swastika and Adolf Hitler’s name. Robin Siefert’s 9-year-old daughter, the only Jewish student in her fourth-grade class at Joseph A. Edgar Intermediate School, has been crying every day as a result of the event, according to her mother. Another student was also called the N-word after he did well during a basketball game. The student, in the latter instance, was reported but bragged to the other student that he hadn’t gotten in trouble.

The fact that a school district had been confronted with evidence and no serious action was taken to find out who the student is that left the note, and no disciplinary action was given to the student using the N-word is concerning. This type of behavior is not conducive to a harmonious student body and does not set a good example or precedent for future issues.

As Siefert noted, there are no strict guidelines for the school to follow, so the district is already at a disadvantage, but that gives the district the opportunity to create new protocol and react proactively to these incidents.

Since the children are in elementary school, this also raises concerns about parenting. Elementary students are young and malleable, whatever opinions they have can often be tracked back to their family.

According to an Anti-Defamation League report April 24, “the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the country was 86 percent higher than the same period last year” with about 541 attacks and threats between January and March.  With hatred and intolerance widespread following President Donald Trump’s (R) campaign and election, there’s a growing issue, and we shouldn’t be emboldening these children, but pulling out the magnifying glass and scrutinizing these behaviors and coming up with ways to solve the problem. We need to keep kids safe. We need to keep families safe.

Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D) holds up signs kids made in support of peace. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

By Victoria Espinoza

The divisive nature of the 2016 presidential election is still affecting many Americans, and racist, anti-Semitic and other xenophobic actions have occurred in some communities.

Local legislators, police officers, school administrators and religious leaders gathered at the Tri Community Youth Association in Huntington Nov. 23 to preach inclusivity and acceptance after several hate-driven incidents were reported.

Two weeks ago, police said multiple swastikas were found spray painted on walls at Northport High School, and town officials said residents have reported hearing hateful language as well.

Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) said parents and community members need to teach children the importance of accepting one another.

“One of these incidents is one too many,” he said during the Huntington event. “It’s our responsibility to speak out against it and educate our youth of the ramifications of such actions.”

A local rabbi holds up another sign encouraging unity. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
A local rabbi holds up another sign encouraging unity. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) echoed the sentiment.

“I want to take this opportunity to come together, to speak to our anxieties, our fears, our concerns that have been spurred by acts of predominantly ignorance,” Spencer said at the event. “We now have a new generation of young people that may not have experienced the Holocaust or the civil rights movement, and this call of unity is not speaking against acts for any particular group, but for all of us. Whether it’s with minorities, in the Jewish, Muslim, Christian community; this is condemning acts of hatred for all of us.”

Spencer said he has received multiple calls from friends and colleagues detailing stories of bullying and threatening acts in recent weeks.

“We are better than this. We can disagree with dignity and without being threatened or going as far as to commit a crime,” Spencer said.

The legislator outlined the many resources available to the public to battle hate crimes and encourage the observation of human rights, including education programs for students, and officers who are specifically trained to recognize hate crimes and counsel victims.

Rabbi Yaakov Saacks from the Chai Center in Dix Hills detailed programs offered to educators to help them teach about the Holocaust.

Saacks urged teachers to give extra attention to Holocaust studies and racism studies. The rabbi said he is involved with the Memorial Library, an organization that supports Holocaust education with satellite seminars, mini grants and more to help schools teach students about the Holocaust. He also offered to travel to schools himself to teach students.

“I believe a Holocaust symbol, while it’s true it’s hurtful to the Jews, the swastika … is hurtful to us all,” Saacks said. “Sixty million people died because of Hitler’s nonsense in World War II. Ten percent of those were of the Jewish faith. Fifty-four million non-Jewish people died. Over three percent of the world’s population were killed in WWII — 292,130 U.S. soldiers were killed in battle. The Iraq War was 5,000. The Civil War was 87,000. It’s not only a Jewish problem. The swastika hurt us all and hurts us all greatly.”

“We are better than this. We can disagree with dignity and without being threatened or going as far as to commit a crime.”
— William Spencer

Kenneth Bossert, superintendent of Elwood school district as well as the vice president of the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association, agreed educators need more help teaching students about these sensitive issues.

“Schools are a reflection of what’s happening in society,” Bossert said. “What children bring with them to the classroom is not only what they learn from their teachers, but what they’re learning in their homes.”

Bossert said he has been an educator for more than 20 years, and this is the first presidential election he remembers that required teachers to talk about issues of race and division.

“Typically, after a presidential election, the results come in and teachers instruct about lessons on the Electoral College and the popular vote and how states break it down,” he said. “The lessons were very different this year. The lessons were about community and respecting others and making everyone feel comfortable and welcome in the hallways and the classrooms.”

Bossert said he wanted to correct one word used throughout the rally: tolerance.

“That’s not a word I use,” he said. “The word I use is acceptance. Tolerance implies that we’re going to tolerate someone who is somehow less than we are. Acceptance implies respect, community and love for one another.”

Roberto Pantoja mugshot from SCPD

A Huntington Station man was charged with a hate crime after allegedly stealing from the same convent twice.

On both March 7 and March 26, the Suffolk County Police Department has alleged, the suspect entered theSaint Hugh of Lincoln Convent on East 9th Street and stole both property and cash that belonged to the nuns living there.

Hate Crimes Unit detectives arrested Roberto Pantoja, 31, on Tuesday, charging him with two counts of second-degree burglary as a hate crime.

Attorney information for Pantoja was not immediately available on the state court system’s online database. He was scheduled to be arraigned on Wednesday.

Anyone with information about the incidents is asked to contact detectives at 631-852-6323.

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Joselo Lucero speaks during a Bethel AME Church program about building bridges during Black History Month. Photo from Tom Lyon

By Tom Lyon

Members of Setauket’s Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church hosted a community forum last Saturday to conclude Black History Month with a time of reflection about violence and its aftermath.

The event was a follow-up to last June’s memorial gathering held just three days after the tragic shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. Nine people, some related to Bethel church members, died in the church’s sanctuary, yet their families spoke out for healing and forgiveness. Actions resulting from the tragedy included the removal of the Confederate battle flag from many public places across the South.

The 80 audience members reflected personally about the main themes of how we can change in response to tragic events and of building bridges throughout our communities to prevent future violence.

A featured speaker was Joselo Lucero, whose brother Marcelo, an Ecuadorean immigrant, was murdered in a Patchogue hate crime six years ago. Joselo Lucero has since become a champion against hate crimes and for tolerance, and has presented programs to thousands of Long Island students. At Bethel AME, he spoke of his family’s loss and how the village of Patchogue now holds an annual vigil in remembrance of the tragedy.

Jennifer Bradshaw, an assistant superintendent in the Smithtown school district, said, “It was so empowering to be surrounded by people dedicated to not just identify societal problems, but to work actively to solve them … to sit down and talk honestly, yet hopefully about building bridges across differences.”

Susan Feretti, of Setauket, said, “The conversation began here today is the beginning of neighbors and groups building bridges … the root of healing both locally and globally. I look forward to what lies ahead.”

Rev. Greg Leonard added that, “Based upon the very positive responses from the audience, and a questionnaire distributed, a task force is being formed to explore ways to hold more ‘building bridges’ events in the future. All community members are invited to join.”

Tom Lyon is a program director at Lift Up Long Island, a group that teaches leadership skills to youth.