The New York Police Department has opened a new unit that will be dedicated to combating far-right extremists and neo-Nazis, according to a report Wednesday.
“Racially and Ethnically Motivated Extremism,” or “R.E.M.E,” which works within the NYPD intelligence department, launched earlier this month, the New York Times reported.
Dozens of investigations into terror threats stemming from far-right groups have since been opened, the report said, adding that right-wing militias and far-right groups like The Proud Boys, Atomwaffen Division, Oathkeepers and the Three Percenters would come under its scrutiny.
The new unit was formed following a string of mass shootings by white nationalists in El Paso, Texas; Gilroy, California; and Dayton, Ohio over the past year.
“You can wait for that terrible thing that has a terrible impact on human life to happen in New York City,” said John Miller, commissioner of the intelligence division. “Or you can look at those things that are happening in all those other places and say, ‘Let’s organize a more focused effort to detect and prevent that now.’”
The move comes amid an uptick of attacks on Jews in New York and a rise in white nationalist attacks nationwide.
Anti-Semitic incidents in New York have increased significantly this year, according to data from the New York Police Department. Through September, there have been 163 reported incidents, up from 108 over the same period last year — an increase of 50 percent. Anti-Semitic incidents make up a majority of reported hate crimes in New York City.
The incidents include a rash of assaults on men in Brooklyn who are identifiably Jewish.
The announcement of the new NYPD unit also came a day after a shooting at a kosher supermarket in Jersey City, in which a police officer, two members of the Jewish community and a store worker were killed, amid growing suspicions the bloodshed was an anti-Semitic attack.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said on MSNBC that the attack was “clearly a hate crime,” while New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo pronounced it a “deliberate attack on the Jewish community.” They announced tighter police protection of synagogues and other Jewish establishments in New York as a precaution.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, in a statement earlier this year, at least 12 white supremacists have been arrested on allegations of plotting, threatening or carrying out anti-Semitic attacks in the US since the massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue over one year ago.
The Anti-Defamation League also counted at least 50 incidents in which white supremacists are accused of targeting Jewish institutions’ property since a gunman killed 11 worshipers at the Tree of Life synagogue on October 27, 2018. Those incidents include 12 cases of vandalism involving white supremacist symbols and 35 cases in which white supremacist propaganda was distributed.
The ADL said its nationwide count of anti-Semitic incidents remains near record levels. It has counted 780 anti-Semitic incidents in the first six months of 2019, compared to 785 incidents during the same period in 2018.