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.
About 40 percent of the state's reported hate crimes were in New York City, according to the data. Hate-crime reports in the city rose by 6 percent from 2008 to 2009.
Most of the hate crimes reported involved bias against Jews or African-Americans, the report said. Anti-gay bias accounted for 12 percent of hate-crime reports, and anti-Hispanic bias fueled 6 percent of the reports.
In most cases, the reported hate crimes took the form of vandalism or intimidation, the report said. No bias-related slayings were reported in 2009.
State officials were criticized last year for not compiling mandatory hate-crime data. Since then, local law enforcement agencies have received training on reporting hate crimes, state officials said in a statement.
Hate crimes reported by Nassau and Suffolk counties, 2005-09
SOURCE: New York Division of Criminal Justice Services