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Democrats Unimpressed by Answers from Human Rights Commission on Incidents of Anti-Semitism and other Bias Crimes in Westchester
(WHITE PLAINS, NY) Westchester Democratic members of the Board of Legislators were disappointed in some of the statements made by members of the Westchester County Human Rights Commission (HRC) during today’s meeting of the committee on Public Safety & Social Services. The meeting, chaired by Legislator Ben Boykin (D-White Plains), was convened in response to the uptick in incidents of hate over the past few weeks. Specifically, instances of bomb threats and graffiti intended to harass and terrorize Westchester’s Jewish community.
“While I thank the Human Rights Commission for coming in, what we heard today is that there are places where we as a County could be doing more to address some of the issues we are facing today,” said Legislator Ben Boykin. “The Human Rights Commission is charged with working together with all members of the public and to do this a greater level of communication from the Commission will be needed,” added Boykin.
In November, Legislator Catherine Parker (D-Rye) wrote a letter to the Human Rights Commission expressing her concerns regarding the uptick in hate crimes. “Sadly, what the commission shared with us today did not alleviate many of the apprehensions I expressed four months ago,” said Parker. “I again call on the commission to create a database of bias incidents in Westchester, develop a plan to work with local municipalities, schools, and police departments, and create an email/hotline for the public to easily contact the HRC to report any incidents. When I hear them say ‘well, the state commission is up the road’ I hear a County department punting on a serious issue we must take the lead on,” concluded Parker.
Legislator Alfreda Williams (D-Greenburgh) has repeatedly asked the Human Rights Commission to provide some type of education outreach regarding bias incidents and certain protections and remedies to a larger variety of faith-based institutions and schools in Westchester. “What I heard today was more of the same. We live in historic times, instances of bias and intolerance are occurring on an almost daily basis and we as a County need to be at the forefront educating the public on what can be done about it,” added Williams.
“Our Human Rights Commission needs resources to act as a viable outlet for witnesses and victims of bias incidents,” added Legislator MaryJane Shimsky (D-Hastings-on-Hudson). “From tracking technologies to inter-agency communication to sheer staffing, it all takes resources. The County’s fiscal issues are hindering Westchester’s ability to respond to hate crimes,” concluded Shimsky.