The city launched its new Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes Tuesday under the leadership of a woman who has three decades of experience fighting against hate acts and bigotry.
Deborah Lauter, who was a senior vice president of the Anti-Defamation League for 18 years, takes over as executive director one day before the NYPD announced that hate crimes increased across the city by 41 percent in the last year.
Lauter’s appointment comes days after two incidents of White Supremacist and anti-Semitic writings were found in the Rockaways over the Labor Day weekend. Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered the New York State Police to assist the U.S. Parks Police in their investigation into hateful graffiti found at the Silver Gull Beach Club in Breezy Point and days later more was found etched into the sand at Beach 138th Street in Belle Harbor.
“By establishing this office, the mayor and City Council have demonstrated their commitment to combating the disturbing growth of hate violence,” Lauter said at City Hall on Sept. 3. “I look forward to coordinating with city agencies that have been stakeholders in addressing hate crimes, elevating the successful work they do, and developing new strategies to work with communities throughout the five boroughs to ensure that all New Yorkers feel respected, safe and supported. My career has been devoted to the fight against bigotry and hate and I am excited to dedicate my skills and expertise.”
During her tenure as the ADL’s National Civil Rights Director, the organization led the national coalition that secured the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Federal Hate Crimes Act. The federal legislation provides funding and technical assistance to state, local and tribal jurisdictions to help them to more effectively investigate and prosecute hate crimes.
“With Deborah leading our Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes will be able to take a closer look at the root cause and weed it out of our society,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “Together, we’ll work with communities to make our streets safer.”
The mayor did not attend Lauter’s City Hall introduction in order to give an interview to boost his presidential candidacy. OPHC will work to address the underlying factors driving hate crimes of all types, and against all targeted communities.
“Deborah is a seasoned community relations professional and a longstanding colleague with extensive experience in interfaith and interethnic coalitions, Holocaust and anti-bias education and responses to hate crimes,” Jewish Community Council of New York Executive Vice President and CEO Michael S. Miller said. “Mayor de Blasio has declared that New York City will never be silent in the face of hatred and will never tolerate any form of anti-Semitism. The opening of this new office led by Deborah tangibly conveys the message that the time is now to confront the rise in anti-Semitic incidents and other bias-motivated crime.”
Meanwhile, state Senator Joseph Addabbo spoke against the anti-Semitic graffiti in the Rockaways.
“These are not just crimes of vandalism, they are clearly crimes of hate plain and simple,” Addabbo said. “Anti-Semitic rhetoric has once again reared its ugly had and has reached our neighborhood on the Rockaway Peninsula. As the world’s most diverse borough, we in Queens need to come together and let everyone know that hate has no place in our communities.”