Originally published on Advocate.com July 23 2003 12:00 AM ET
The state of New York has released its first-ever hate crimes report covering calendar year 2001. The Empire State Pride Agenda, the state's leading gay rights organization, said the report is a result of its continuing efforts to ensure that New York's hate-crimes law is being implemented effectively. The report's release came after the ESPA raised the issue as a concern during an April meeting with counsel staff to Gov. George Pataki. Under the state's hate-crimes law, enacted in 2000, the Division of Criminal Justice Services is responsible for collecting data on hate crimes and providing it to the governor and the legislature on an annual basis. "This shows why it is important to have someone watching government," said Alan Van Capelle, executive director for ESPA. "We are glad the 2001 hate-crime figures have been released, and we look forward to seeing the more comprehensive 2002 figures soon."
Commenting on the report itself, executive director of the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project Richard Haymes was critical. "Hate crimes statistics reflect those individuals who are most comfortable stepping forward to report a possible hate crime and not the actual number of hate crimes, and this report is no different in that respect," he said. "The Anti-Violence Project received 379 complaints alleging criminal bias against gay men and lesbians in the five boroughs of New York City in 2001, which is more than three times the number reported in the state's data. This in itself raises questions about how closely the state's numbers reflect reality. Undoubtedly there are many hate crimes being perpetrated across the state based upon sexual orientation where the victim feels too uncomfortable to report the incident."