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US congressman calls on FBI to probe handling of antisemitic crimes in New York

NY Representative Richie Torres also urges attorney general to investigate failure to ‘prosecute hate crimes,’ as few are punished in surge of anti-Jewish attacks

Luke Tress is an editor and a reporter in New York for The Times of Israel.

US House Representative Ritchie Torres, a New York Democrat, speaks during a House committee hearing on Homeland Security at the Capitol in Washington, July 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades)
US House Representative Ritchie Torres, a New York Democrat, speaks during a House committee hearing on Homeland Security at the Capitol in Washington, July 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades)

NEW YORK — US House Representative Ritchie Torres on Thursday called on the FBI and US attorney general to investigate New York’s response to surging antisemitism.

Torres, from New York, called for the federal investigation in a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray, US Attorney General Merrick Garland and Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke.

“I am respectfully asking the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department to consider investigating New York’s systematic failure to police and prosecute hate crimes and to issue recommendations to reform,” Torres said, after expressing his concerns about antisemitic violence.

“The federal government can no longer stand by passively as antisemitic violence goes unchecked and unpunished in America’s largest city,” said the letter, which was provided to The Times of Israel.

Democrat Torres represents New York’s 15th Congressional district in the Bronx and is a firm supporter of Jewish communities and Israel.

In the letter, he highlighted statistics from the Anti-Defamation League showing record numbers of antisemitic attacks in recent years, and an article from Tablet on the low number of serious punishments for anti-Jewish hate crimes.

Jews are consistently the group most targeted in hate crimes in New York City on an annual basis, in per capita and absolute terms, with the Anti-Defamation League reporting a record-high number of incidents last year.

The NYPD has confirmed 149 anti-Jewish hate crimes between the start of the year and June 28, representing an incident every 29 hours on average. The attacks range from violent assaults to racial slurs and property damage, and many more likely go unreported.

In August, the NYPD reported 24 anti-Jewish hate crimes, a 118% jump over the same month last year.

Many of the attacks target visibly identifiable Jews and Jewish targets in Brooklyn.

Most of the attacks do not result in serious punishment, drawing the ire of Jewish advocates. Late last month, police announced two arrests for suspected hate crimes against Jews, as Brooklyn community leaders called for bail reform laws that could lead to harsher punishments.

A US federal court charged a pro-Palestinian activist with a hate crime after he beat a Jewish man on the sidelines of a protest in Manhattan in April.

In some of the incidents in the past week, a Jewish man was punched in the face repeatedly in an unprovoked attack in Queens; Nazi graffiti was sprayed on a fountain in Manhattan; and a bicyclist swatted the hat off of a Jewish man in Brooklyn.

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