With hate crimes spiking this month, Captain Peter Fortune, the commanding officer of the 114th Precinct, wants to make it clear that there is no room for hateful rhetoric in his precinct.
“Whatever your political view is, whatever your religious view is, that’s great,” Fortune said at Tuesday’s 114th Precinct Community Council meeting in Astoria. “You shouldn’t victimize somebody else based on what somebody looks like or what religion they are.”
Queens is the most diverse borough in the country, and Astoria is home to people from nearly 100 countries. Recently, it has also been the scene of several incidents that are being investigated as hate crimes by the NYPD.
On Nov. 19, four teenagers were sitting outside of a bar at 27-35 21st St. in Astoria when three men approached them and made anti-Muslim comments. A fight broke out and a 17-year-old Muslim teenager suffered a fractured eye socket when a suspect threw a glass bottle at his face.
Fortune said police are investigating this incident as a hate crime and that officers have several leads.
There were also swastikas found on the 30th Avenue train platform on the N and W lines and in an Astoria park.
“There’s no place in the 114th for this kind of anti-Muslim, anti-religious, anti-ethnicity at all,” Fortune said. “Frankly, it bothers me. It actually embarrasses me when I see some of the people that commit these crimes. I don’t really know what you think it’s going to solve or what point you’re trying to make, but it’s gotta stop.”
On Nov. 17, a video that an Arab-American Uber driver captured on his phone was released online. A man drove up to the Uber driver on Crescent Street and went on a racist tirade, saying “f***in’ loser, f**k you and your family, you terrorist f**k.”
Fortune said the driver has not reported the incident to police but urges him and anyone else who thinks he or she has been a victim of a hate crime to come forward to police.
The commanding officer added that the 114th Precinct has conducted outreach to Muslims living in Astoria to show them that officers are on their side.
“We have 14 mosques [in the 114th Precinct],” Fortune said. “We have a tremendous relationship with our Muslim community. We want to let them know they’re not alone in this and they’ll have our continued support throughout this process.”
According to Police Commissioner James O’Neill, there were a reported 328 hate crimes in New York City through Nov. 13. This number reflects a 31 percent increase from last year and there was both an increase in anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic hate crimes.
Fortune said the three reported incidents were “three too many” and that it is uncommon for the 114th Precinct to see this volume of biased crimes.
“You can rest assured that were going to investigate this to the fullest, were going to work with the district attorney’s office and if we can put you in jail we’re going to put you in jail because it’s not going to be tolerated in the 114th,” Fortune said.
Spokespeople for Councilmen Jimmy Van Bramer and Costa Constantinides said their offices will paint over any graffiti that may be deemed hateful or racist.
“We do take the graffiti just as seriously,” Fortune said. “We do treat it as a hate crime.”