With hate crimes against Asians on the rise, bill seeks better data on victims and motives

Photo via Facebook, courtesy of @AsianAmericanFederation

New legislation ensuring the collection of information on New Yorkers involved in hate crimes has passed in the Senate Finance Committee as of Monday, March 1.

As hate crimes against Asian-American and Pacific Islander citizens reach all time highs in the state, legislators are taking action to ensure safety for these populations. 

The new legislation, titled The Hate Crimes Analysis and Review Act (S.70/A.2230) was first drafted by Senator Brad Hoylman and Assembly member Karines Reyes following a 900% increase in the number of hate crimes reported against New York City’s Asian-American community, since 2019.

“This disturbing rise in hateful violence is an affront to our values as New Yorkers,” Hoylman said. “We must take action to address it.” The New York Police Department reported three hate crimes against AAPI in 2019, and a staggering 29 in 2020. The NYPD additionally reported 24 of the crimes in 2020 “were motivated by racist misconceptions about COVID-19.”

Prior versions of this bill were drafted and pushed through legislative branches with little luck in 2019. S.6066-A, also sponsored by Hoylman, died in the Finance Committee, and A.8070-A passed Assembly, however once it reached the Senate, was referred to the Investigations and Government Operations Committee in February of 2020.

According to a recent press release from the Council of Korean Americans, there have been up to 2,800 hate crimes committed against Asian-Americans since the pandemic began, many of which were motivated by COVID scapegoating, or the blaming of AAPI peoples for the spread of the virus.

The problem is not just seen in New York, but across the U.S.  Following Donald Trump’s presidency in which he referred to COVID as “the China virus” on various occasions, many states are also reporting increases in hate crimes against Asian-Americans.

The Council of Korean Americans referenced a recent report from ABC’s Nightline that covered the issue of the U.S. using the Asian-American community as a scapegoat for COVID’s monumental effects. “The problem of scapegoating and committing acts of bias against Asian Americans is not limited to a particular community or part of the nation, it is a problem the entire country must wrestle with,” the release said.

Though the U.S. has seen a rise in political and social activism over the past year, there are still quite a few states that have few to no hate crime laws in place to protect their marginalized communities. Even the country’s most left-leaning states like California are seeing rises in hate crimes against AAPI. 

On Saturday, February 20, a rally was held at Washington Square Park in response to violence against Asian and Pacific Islander communities of New York City. A week later, Trump gave a speech in Florida at the Conservative Political Action Conference where he described China as a threat to America’s global power.

The new bill would require that the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services “maintain and make public statistical data about hate crimes, while expanding the data points law enforcement is required to report.”

Additionally the bill, which still awaits passage in the Senate, would require the DJCS issue a standalone hate crimes report based on the data they gather. The intention is to provide a more thorough analysis of hate crimes committed in New York. 

Photo courtesy of the Asian American Bar Association and Sen. Brad Hoylman’s Office

Last session, the bill passed the Assembly but died in the Senate Finance Committee.

According to the bill memo, when hate crimes take place in New York, there is often insufficient information collected about those involved to adequately understand who the victims are and who is being accused of the crime. 

This bill would require data collection of the gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, color, religion, ancestry, age, disability, and national origin of both alleged perpetrators and victims of hate crimes from the division of criminal justice services. 

By collecting this information, the bill sponsors say, New York state can better ensure that the state is protecting residents hate crimes laws intend to protect.

“This data will be a crucial step towards understanding the spike in hate crimes and determining ways to stop it,” Hoylman said, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.”