By Ariel Goodman and Christine Chung
April 20, 2021
This article was published in partnership with The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization covering the U.S. criminal justice system.
Hate crimes against elderly Asians in New York are vastly underreported. Here’s some information on what defines a hate crime, how to report incidents to the police, and ways to document your experience if you don’t want to get the police involved.
How do I report a hate crime to the police in New York City?
If you are the victim of a hate crime in New York City, or see or hear one, you can call 911 to report it to the police. If you do not speak English, say the name of the language that you speak in English, and you will be connected to a translator (you may have to hold).
You will then be asked to state your location and describe what is happening. If the police arrive after the perpetrator has fled the scene, you will be asked to give as much detail as possible about what they looked like, what they said and what happened.
Not every anti-Asian incident is a hate crime under New York law. Keep reading to learn more about what to do no matter what kind of bias incident you may have experienced or witnessed.
How do authorities define a hate crime in New York?
According to New York State law, a person commits a hate crime when they intentionally select a victim or commit an offense because of the person’s race, skin color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age disability or sexual orientation.
But legally speaking, incidents of hate and bias are not categorized as crimes. For example, if someone says, “Go back to China, you brought COVID-19” to an Asian person, it would be considered a non-criminal bias incident. Similarly, if someone spat on an Asian person without saying anything, it would be considered harassment. Most of the time cases like these are never prosecuted.
However, if authorities determine that a crime was committed, and that the crime was motivated by bias, the incident could be considered a hate crime, making a criminal sentence more severe. More information on what is defined as a hate crime in New York can be found here.
I was the victim of a hate crime or other bias incident. What resources are available to me?
If you are a victim of anti-Asian or other hate, you may be eligible for compensation, even if you did not experience physical violence.
- Victim compensation: The New York State Office of Victim Services works with crime victims to connect them to compensation. Depending on the situation, OVS may be able to help you secure financial relief and medical benefits. More information can be found here. OVS can be reached at 1-800-247-8035.
- Legal help: Check out Documented’s guide to getting free legal help in New York City. Also, the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association is offering pro bono legal support to victims of hate crimes. Their intake form can be found here.
- Mental health support: NYC Well connects you to free, confidential mental health support in more than 200 languages. You can speak to a counselor 24 hours a day 7 days a week by calling: 1-888-692-9355, by texting WELL (9355) to 65173, or chat with them online here.
- Free lock change: Certain victims of hate crimes and bias incidents may be eligible to have their locks changed for free through Safe Horizon’s Project Safe. In order to qualify you need to have filed a police report within the last 30 days. Call 866-689-HELP (4357) to see if you are eligible and schedule an appointment.
Can I still report an incident of hate that I witnessed or experienced in the past?
Yes. There are multiple ways to report incidents of hate to authorities, as well as to provide tips and other information. In some cases, police detectives may follow up with you after you report an incident. You will never be asked about your immigration status.
- Go to your local police precinct. Find which one you live in and out how to contact them here. All precincts and NYPD officers in the field have access to the Language Line which connect them to interpreters of 180 languages.
- Contact the hate crimes unit at your local District Attorney’s office:
- Manhattan District Attorney Hate Crimes Unit: 212-335-3100
- Brooklyn District Attorney Hate Crimes Bureau: 718-250-4949
- Bronx District Attorney Hate Crimes Unit: 844-590-7226 (Immigrant Affairs Unit)
- Queens District Attorney Hate Crimes Unit: 718-286-7010
- Staten Island District Attorney: 718-876-6300
- Call the NYPD Crime Stoppers tip line at 800-577-TIPS to leave a completely anonymous tip.
- Report an act of bias or discrimination online to the New York City Commission on Human Rights. You can submit your answers in one of the roughly 100 available languages.
- Email: The NYPD Asian American Hate Crimes Task Force at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How can I report incidents of hate if I don’t want to go to the police?
Across the country, Asian American/Pacific Islander community organizations have been collecting testimonies, tips, and stories to document the growing number of reported bias incidents against community members, and address the problems of underreporting. Here are some organizations that have created forms where you can report incidents of hate, and in some cases request help.
- Asian American Federation (For incidents in the New York tri-state area. Available in English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Nepali, Tagalog, Tibetan and Vietnamese)
- OCA–Asian Pacific American Advocates (Available in English)
- Asian Americans Advancing Justice (Available in English, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese)
- Stop AAPI Hate (available in English, Chinese, Korean, Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese, Khmer, Punjabi, Tagalog, Hmong and Hindi)
How is the community responding? How can I get involved?
Community groups across the city have responded to the wave of anti-Asian hate by creating mutual aid projects that seek to create safer neighborhoods for Asian New Yorkers and to provide an alternative to police intervention. Here are some of them:
- Chaperoning: Protect Chinatown offers elderly Asians the opportunity to request a chaperone in Manhattan’s Chinatown if they feel unsafe. Request a chaperone here or call (646) 543-4055.
- Bystander intervention: Main Street Patrol walks the streets of Flushing on Saturdays and Sundays with a group of volunteers who are trained in bystander intervention to de-escalate potentially violent situations. Sign up here to be updated on their activities. Hollaback offers training on bystander intervention. Learn more and sign up here.
- Free cab fare: Cafe Maddy Cab is a fund that allows Asian women, elderly Asians, and Asians who identify as LGBTQ to request money to pay for a cab ride if they feel unsafe. Request funds here.
- Self-defense: The Asian American Federation has put together a video series outlining self-defense techniques for Asian New Yorkers who feel unsafe. The videos can be found with subtitles in Chinese, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Korean, and Japanese, The Center for Anti-Violence Education also offers upstander trainings, trainings in self defense and workshops for youth. Learn more and sign up here.