NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill blames ‘open border’ for increase in hate crimes

The New York Police Department’s police commissioner, James B. O’Neill, blamed the “open border” policies of President Donald Trump and a growing population of Asian immigrants in New York City in an interview with The New York Times.

“If you’re in New York City, it’s possible to get a driver’s license for a driver’s license,” Mr. O’Neill said, in a conversation that was ostensibly about the department’s crime-fighting efforts. “An open border, you can get into the city. The Asian population here is up over 50 percent in five years, and Asian gang activity is up. So we are seeing a lot of Asian incidents as well.”

“And it seems almost you’re making the choice here to be a racial criminal, or you’re taking advantage of the city,” Mr. O’Neill said, “because we don’t consider some of the Asian people, because they’re of lower economic status, as victims or victims of hate crimes.”

Mr. O’Neill has expressed frustration with the force’s approach to hate crimes and has reached out to city council members, police unions and community groups to make the case for more aggressive policing.

But while Mr. O’Neill expressed concern about the disparity between incidents and reports of hate crimes, he declined to draw broader conclusions about the tone of the national debate.

“I think there are issues that could be addressed in a more complex, thoughtful way,” he said, “than to generalize as broad as that.”

An overview of hate crimes from 2011 to 2016, compiled by the Department of Justice, suggests that the NYPD Commissioner could be right.

During that period, the agency tallied 180 hate crimes, which are defined as acts “motivated in whole or in part by a bias against a person or protected characteristic,” the report states. The total does not include crimes that are reported to state and federal agencies that do not report to the city, which include rape, assault, burglary and murder. But even when those include crimes that may have been committed on the basis of race, ethnicity or religion, the number of reported hate crimes has decreased in recent years.

In 2014, for example, the most recent year for which a report was compiled, there were 118 hate crimes reported in New York City, down from 148 in 2013.

The drop occurred, in part, due to an increase in reporting by the police.

In a report last summer, for example, City Hall statistics showed that more people called 911 reporting instances of hate crimes in 2015 than during the previous year. And they outnumbered the number of hate crimes reported to the city by NYPD officers.

But in the Times interview, Mr. O’Neill said there should not be a comparison between public information and the “quiet” reporting of cases that leads to fewer figures being released. He argued that it was time for the community to unify and come forward about hate crimes.

“There are strong motives for people to report hate crimes to the police,” he said. “But if you have a community of people that’s uneasy about it, that distrusts the police, I think, it’s going to make it more difficult for us to solve them.”

He argued that police officers should make an effort to build a relationship with the community. When asked about his relationship with the city’s officers, Mr. O’Neill said it was “good.”

“I think I’ve got a good rapport with the members of the department,” he said. “I’ve actually been working with the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, with the other unions for the last eight years in the contract and the collective bargaining. But I also make a very personal appeal to the department to get those numbers down, and that’s the first and foremost thing that I’m concerned about.”

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