Brooklyn Hate Crime Spike: Cause and Effect

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District Attorney Kenneth Thompson

Photo by: KCDA

District Attorney Kenneth Thompson

There's word today that Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson is stepping up hate crimes enforcement in the wake of a string of distressing bias incidents in Kings County.

The recent spike notwithstanding. Brooklyn traditionally leads the state in hate crimes reports. As Chris Giblin reported last year at, “Brooklyn is home to 32 percent of New York City's population but reports 43 percent of the city's hate crimes. One in 12 New York State residents lives in Brooklyn but one in five of the state's hate crimes occur in the borough.”

The recent increase in reported hate crimes in Brooklyn might relate to increased tensions in the Middle East—echoes of the combat between Israel and Hamas this summer, or reflections of the rise of ISIS. But what explains Brooklyn's traditionally high number of hate crime reports?

“It's unclear,” Giblin wrote, “whether the borough's ethnic mix explains the relatively high number of hate crimes reports in Brooklyn, or whether more aggressive use of the laws by Brooklyn cops and prosecutors means crimes that might escape the hate-crime label elsewhere are labeled 'hate' here.” Indeed, Thompson's much-maligned predecessor Joe Hynes was himself a big proponent of hate-crimes prosecution.

Whatever is behind the high numbers of hate reports, just because a crime is reported as a hate crime doesn't mean the “hater” is ever punished. Most hate crimes never result in arrest, and many arrests do not lead to hate-crime convictions. From 2008 through 2011, Brooklyn had 59 hate crime convictions representing just 13 percent of reported hate crimes during that four-year period, Giblin found.

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