By Bill Parry
U.S. Reps. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) and Grace Meng (D-Flushing) joined several other members of Congress and advocates to welcome the inclusion of Sikh, Hindu and Arab American communities in the Department of Justice hate crimes tracking effort. It is the final step in a three-year-long effort to encourage the federal government to finally begin tracking and quantifying hate crimes against these at-risk communities.
The move comes three years after the tragic massacre in Oak Creek, Wis. in which a white supremacist gunned down six individuals worshipping at a Sikh temple, and just over a month after a Long Island man was indicted by a Queens grand jury in a hate crime case in Ozone Park. Joseph Caleca, 55, allegedly called Sandeep Singh “Osama” before ramming him with his pick-up truck and dragging his body along a street before fleeing the scene in July 2014.
“Time and time again, we have seen vicious attacks on members of Sikh, Hindu and Arab American communities,” Crowley said. “Tracking hate crimes is more than just putting a number in a column – it means giving law enforcement agencies the resources and information they need to help prevent this kind of violence in the first place.”
The Department of Justice has updated its hate crimes training manual to include sections dedicated to identifying crimes against South Asian and Arab victims and witnesses.
“The new FBI hate crimes training manual is the single most important, most inclusive hate crime training resource available for law enforcement officials,” Anti-Defamation League Counsel Michael Lieberman said.
The death of Elmhurst resident Sunando Sen, who was shoved into the path of a No. 7 subway train in Sunnyside in December 2012 was recalled by Harsh Voruganti, associate director of Public Policy at the Hindu American Foundation.
“Even as our community grows, Hindu Americans remain uniquely vulnerable to harassment, bullying, and violence,” Harsh said. “On this historic day, I’d like to remember Sunando Sen, a Hindu who was murdered in a New York City subway station because of his faith. While this tracking comes too late for Sunando, it can help ensure that hate violence is combatted effectively in the future.”
Erika Menendez, 33, of Rego Park, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and is awaiting sentencing to anywhere from 22 to 25 years in prison for that crime. Upon her arrest, she told police that she hated Muslims and Hindus.
“This is an unfortunate, ongoing issue for these communities,” Meng said. “In just the last few months an Islamic Center, a Hindu temple, two multiple Muslim families, and an Indian grandfather were all targets of hate. I hope that the community will feel more comfortable coming forward and reporting incidents so that we can track the true extent of this problem.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr