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Mayor de Blasio Launches Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes, Months Ahead of Schedule

September 3, 2019

Deborah Lauter, National Leader in Combating Bias and Hate Crimes, named Executive Director

NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the hiring of Deborah Lauter as the new Executive Director of the Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes (OPHC), officially launching the new city organization months ahead of the official deadline. Lauter began her work with the office on August 26, 2019.

“In New York City, we cherish our differences and reject all attempts to divide – everyone is respected and supported, regardless of their race, religion, sexual orientation or any other quality that makes them who they are,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “With Deborah leading our Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes we’ll be able to take a closer look at the root cause of hate and weed it out of our society. Together, we’ll work with communities to make our streets safer.”

“By establishing this office, the Mayor and City Council have demonstrated their commitment to combating the disturbing growth of hate violence,” said Deborah Lauter, Executive Director of the Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes. “I look forward to coordinating with city agencies that have been stakeholders in addressing hate crimes, elevating the successful work they do, and developing new strategies to work with communities throughout the five boroughs to ensure that all New Yorkers feel respected, safe and supported. My career has been devoted to the fight against bigotry and hate and I am excited to dedicate my skills and expertise to serving the City.”

Lauter brings three decades of experience working against hate acts and bigotry. Formerly a senior vice-president for the Anti-Defamation League, Lauter’s work has helped build training and education programs that provide schools, law enforcement officials, and communities with the resources to target the roots of hatred. During her tenure as ADL’s National Civil Rights Director, the organization led the national coalition that secured passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Federal Hate Crimes Act. The federal legislation provides funding and technical assistance to state, local, and tribal jurisdictions to help them to more effectively investigate and prosecute hate crimes.

Earlier this year the City Council passed, and the Mayor signed into law, legislation to establish the OPHC. Embedded in the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, the OPHC will take a holistic approach to preventing hate crimes, developing and coordinating community-driven prevention strategies to address biases fueling such crimes, and fostering healing for victims and their communities. The new office will coordinate city efforts to prevent and respond to hate crimes through an interagency committee, which includes the NYPD, City Commission on Human Rights, Department of Education, Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

OPHC will work to address the underlying factors driving hate crimes of all types, and against all targeted communities, through proactive outreach to community groups and coordinated intervention efforts among government agencies to deploy resources before incidents occur. 

“The dedicated detectives of the NYPD Hate Crime Task Force work hand-in-hand with other investigative units throughout the city to vigorously investigate hate crimes and bias incidents and bring justice for victims of these crimes,” said Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill. “We will not tolerate hate of any kind in New York City and we look forward to collaborating with this new office on this critical work.”

"New York City has led the nation in historic declines simultaneously in crime, incarceration and enforcement. But, like the rest of the nation, we continue to seek out new and effective ways to prevent the proliferation of hate crimes and to ensure meaningful accountability for those who commit them." said Elizabeth Glazer, Director of the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice. "We intend to bring the same relentless focus, innovation and partnership to this difficult issue, just as we have with criminal justice reforms. Deborah is a proven leader who brings the right experience, skill, and temperament to lead this critical office at this critical time."

“A feeling of safety can foster improved health,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “I am especially pleased that this work will not only address biases that inspire violent acts but also strategies to promote healing for individuals and communities that have been victims of such crimes. No one should feel scared to be who they are.”

“In the ultimate city of immigrants, we recognize our diversity as our strength and have forged ahead in making New York City inclusive and welcoming for all,” said Bitta Mostofi, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. “We look forward to working with the Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes and Executive Director Deborah Lauter to protect New Yorkers, regardless of their background or immigration status, from hate violence, harassment and discrimination.”

JCRC-NY welcomes the appointment of Deborah Lauter as Executive Director of the Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes. Deborah is a seasoned community relations professional and a longstanding colleague with extensive experience in interfaith and interethnic coalitions, Holocaust and anti-bias education, and responses to hate crimes,” said Michael S. Miller, Executive Vice President and CEO Jewish Community Relations Council of New York. “Mayor de Blasio has declared that New York City will never be silent in the face of hatred and will never tolerate any form of anti-Semitism. The opening of this new office led by Deborah tangibly conveys the message that the time is now to confront the rise in anti-Semitic incidents and other bias-motivated crime. We look forward to partnering with Deborah and the OPHC to keep our community safe.”

“Deborah has had a long and distinguished professional career fighting anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, prejudice and hate.  I cannot think of anyone more suited and qualified to lead the new and much-needed OPHC. We congratulate the Mayor on this appointment and look forward to working together,” said Evan R. Bernstein NY/NJ Regional Director ADL

“Majlis Ash-Shura: Islamic Leadership Council of New York congratulates the City of New York for the new Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes,” said Muhammad T Rahman of ICNA. “We hope that this new office serves its purpose in defending New Yorkers against jingoism and racism whether because of their ethnicity, religion, or political activism. We wholeheartedly support this initiative.”

“The New York Board of Rabbis wishes to commend Mayor Bill de Blasio upon his important appointment of Deborah Lauter as Executive Director of the Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes. The scourge of hatred is a sad reality that requires the collective voices of our diverse communities.  Ms. Lauder is highly credentialed and undoubtedly will confront this challenge in cooperation with all of us who will not tolerate such evil.” said Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, Executive Vice President of the New York Board of Rabbis. “Thankfully in New York City we of different denominations see each other as one human family who stand together when any member is victimized by an act of hatred.  We are many and we are one.”

"The Center staunchly supports a comprehensive approach to effectively address hate crimes, particularly for LGBTQ people who are often targets of violent bigotry and discrimination," said Glennda Testone, Executive Director of The LGBT Community Center. "We look forward to working with the Mayor's office and Deborah Lauter, in her role as the new Executive Director of the Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes, to advance innovative strategies that help prevent hate crimes while promoting balanced, restorative practices that foster community healing."

"At New Women New Yorkers, we strongly believe that advancing inclusion and diversity in the workforce and society at large are key to building a better, more equal and more prosperous city. “The launch of the Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes comes at an important time, when support for community-driven and other initiatives which ensure immigrant residents and other marginalized New Yorkers feel safe and respected is more critical than ever,” said Arielle Kandel, CEO of New Women New Yorkers.

“We are thrilled that the Mayor is opening an Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes. We have seen an unprecedented increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans, especially Sikhs and Muslims, and other minority communities in New York City these past years. Not only are these Americans victimized, they are often afraid to report these crimes.  We hope that a dedicated office can spear head much needed education and awareness that will help mitigate the xenophobia that is putting so many in our communities in danger, and encourage affected community members to come forward to seek justice." said Jo Ann Yoo, Executive Director, Asian American Federation.

“Having worked with Councilmembers Deutsch, Levine and Richards to advocate for the creation of the Mayor’s Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes (OPHC), we are delighted that Deborah Lauter has been appointed as its Executive Director.  At a time of heightened attacks on Jews in our city, her hiring sends an important message that this situation is unacceptable and cannot continue.  We look forward to working with her in this vital new role” said Michael Schmidt, AJC NY Director.

“The Asian Pacific American community in NYC, a heavily immigrant community, experience high rates of hate crimes that often go unreported, especially in the anti-immigrant climate we live in now,” said Anita Gundanna and Vanessa Leung, Co-Executive Directors of the Coalition for Asian American Children & Families (CACF). “We are pleased with the action NYC Council and the City is taking to protect the safety and well-being of NYC residents by creating an Office of Prevention of Hate Crimes. It is more critical than ever to ensure that bigotry and hate do not continue to endanger our communities. CACF is happy to support the Office in undertaking the engagement and education necessary to address the concerns of all communities across the city.”  

The escalating, violent attacks on Jews in New York City and the shocking anti-Semitism displayed on social media by individuals and political parties alike, as evidenced by a recent Rockland County GOP video, are deeply disturbing trends to all citizens of good conscience. The opening of an office dedicated to preventing anti-Semitic motivated, and all hate crimes, is a timely and most welcome move.  We laud Mayor de Blasio for his leadership and determination on this issue, and wish Ms. Lauter much success in her new and important role. Said Rabbi Avi Shafran, Agudath Israel of America’s director of public affairs

“There is surge of hate crimes in the city and many of those are directed at Orthodox Jews living in Williamsburg, Borough Park, Crown Heights and other large Orthodox communities. More needs to be done so Jews can freely walk the streets without being afraid of being attacked and terrorized because of their faith.  Opening the Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes well before scheduled is a very positive step and demonstrates the Mayor’s commitment to addressing this growing problem immediately. We look forward to working with the office under the leadership of its Executive Director Deborah Lauter,” said Rabbi David Niederman, President of the UJO of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn.

Crown Heights Jewish Community Council reacted warmly to the news. Chanina Sperlin, Executive Vice President for Government Relations said, “We appreciate the seriousness with which the City is addressing this important issue.” Rabbi Eli Cohen, CHJCC’s Executive Director, added “We are happy to see this important office beginning to take shape and look forward to working with the new Director and staff.”

“I look forward to partnering with the Mayor's Office  for the Prevention of Hate Crimes in addressing these vile crimes of hate that are escalating and increasing throughout our city, targeting the Jewish Community, through accountability and programs of prevention through education,” said Devorah Halberstam, Director of External Affairs Jewish Children’s Museum.

“Coalition for Progressive Hindus commends Mayor Bill De Blasio on the launch of the Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes (OPHC), and looks forward to partnering with this important office to ensure that communities are protected and that we get to the roots of hate.” said Sadhana Sunita Viswanath, Board Member of Sadhana. Sadhana stands against all forms of hatred, bigotry and violence. Ahimsa (non-violence and non-harm) is a core tenet of Hinduism, and one of Sadhana's guiding principles. Hindus believe that we are all one, and therefore if one individual or community is targeted by hatred, we are all impacted. It is our dharma (moral duty) to denounce the racist, anti-immigrant and Islamophobic rhetoric, and resulting hate speech and hate crimes which are all too frequent in our country today. We look forward to working with OPHC to ensure that our neighborhoods are safe and loving spaces where all New Yorkers can thrive.

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