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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Gov. establishes hotline for Wellsville hate crime and others

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today launched a toll-free hotline to report incidents of bias and discrimination across the state. The hotline will bolster the state’s efforts to protect New Yorkers and allow those who are the victim of prejudice to file a complaint with the Division of Human Rights. Following an uptick in recent reports of discrimination, bias-motivated threats, harassment and violence, the Governor also announced multi-agency investigations into alleged hate crimes across New York. The Governor is also sending a letter to the State Education Department requesting schools hold trainings to combat intolerance and safeguard New York’s students.

These latest efforts follow two separate investigations into alleged hate crimes in Wellsville and Geneseo, NY that the Governor directed last week.

“New York serves as a beacon of hope and opportunity for all, and we will continue to stand up to those who seek to spread the politics of division, fear and hate,” Governor Cuomo said. “This state celebrates our differences because we know that it is the rich fabric of cultures and customs that makes this one of the greatest, most diverse places in the world. We will continue to work with our local partners to investigate all incidents of reported bias, and ensure that New Yorkers feel safe and protected. Any acts of discrimination or intimidation will be met with the full force of the law.”

New Yorkers who have experienced bias or discrimination are encouraged to call DHR’s toll-free hotline at (888) 392-3644 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday - Friday. If you want to report a crime or fear for your safety, call 911 immediately.

The New York State Police currently has 46 investigators assigned to Troops across the state who have been trained as bias crime specialists. The investigators work on State Police cases that may involve bias crimes and are available to assist other law enforcement agencies statewide as requested.

Additionally, as a result of the increased prevalence of these incidents in schools, the Governor is sending a letter to State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, requesting the State Education Department to immediately require schools to hold trainings for staff and students to reinforce the strong anti-discrimination provisions included within the state Human Rights Law and Dignity for All students Act, as well as underscore the importance of reporting any criminal discriminatory behavior to law enforcement.

Under state law, a person commits a hate crime when one of a specified set of offenses is committed targeting a victim because of a perception or belief about their race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation, or when such an act is committed as a result of that type of perception or belief. Hate crimes can be perpetrated against an individual, a group of individuals or against public or private property. Also under state law it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, national origin, religion, ethnicity and many other protected classifications.

New York has the proud distinction of being the first state in the nation to enact a Human Rights Law, affording every citizen “an equal opportunity to enjoy a full and productive life.” The New York State Division of Human Rights is the agency in charge of enforcing this law, which prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, credit, and other jurisdictions, based on age, race, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, military status, and other specified classes. For more information about the Human Rights Law and the work of the agency, please visit the Division of Human Rights’ website at
www.dhr.ny.gov.

If you have been the victim of a crime, you may contact the New York State Office of Victim Services, which funds 223 programs statewide, providing direct services, such as crisis intervention and counseling, to victims of crime, including hate crimes. Those programs also can help any crime victim apply for compensation and other assistance from the agency, which is a safety net for individuals who have no other resources. Individuals seeking help from OVS also can search for a service provider online:
https://ovs.ny.gov/locate-program. For more information, please visit: www.ovs.ny.gov.