Increased attention to crimes against Hispanics following the November 2008 stabbing death of an Ecuadorean immigrant in Patchogue contributed to a nearly 30 percent jump in hate-crime reports in Suffolk County, a police official said Friday.
After Marcelo Lucero's death during an ethnically motivated confrontation with seven youths, Suffolk police worked to persuade Hispanics to report crimes against them, said Deputy Insp. Christopher Bergold of the Suffolk Police Department.
Reports of hate crimes, after dropping for two straight years in Suffolk, jumped to 80 in 2009 from 62 the year before, according to data released Thursday by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services.
Police officials expect a lower number of hate-crime reports for 2010, Bergold said. Through Oct. 31, Suffolk police had received 39 such reports, he said.
Before Lucero was killed, Bergold said, Latinos may have resisted reporting crimes out of what he called unfounded fear they would be questioned about their immigration status.
"People can come forward without fear of reprisal," Bergold said. "The police department does respond aggressively when people do come forward."
Six other teenagers were convicted in connection with the attack. They are serving from 5 to 8 years in prison.
Lucero's death prompted an ongoing federal review of Suffolk's handling of crimes reported by Latinos.
The report released Thursday showed hate-crime reports dropped by 18 percent in Nassau County from 2008 to 2009. Statewide, hate-crime reports were up 14 percent, it said.