One of the bills would include certain graffiti under New York’s bias-related crime laws.
By Forum Staff
The State Senate recently voted through two pieces of legislation that would raise penalties for those who vandalize or otherwise damage houses of religious worship, desecrate burial grounds, or create graffiti featuring swastikas or other recognized symbols or words of hate.
The first bill would raise penalties to the felony level for a variety of crimes that damage houses of religious worship, sacred items, and the final resting places of New York residents. Punishment would also be increased for stealing religious items from houses of worship and cemeteries.
“While there have always been despicable people who take pleasure in robbing institutions of religious worship, knocking down gravestones, and writing hate-filled messages on buildings, fences and other private and public property in our communities, it seems like incidences of this nature are becoming more common,” said State Sen. Joe Addabbo, Jr. (D-Howard Beach), who co-sponsored both bills. “We might not be able to cure thievery, or stop people from hating others simply on the basis of their religious, racial or other differences, but we can take steps to make sure that their criminal activity receives the harsh punishment it deserves.”
The second piece of legislation would include certain graffiti – such as writing that includes swastikas, recognized racial slurs, and other hate speech – under New York’s bias-related crime laws. Under current law, Addabbo noted, offenses that may now also constitute a hate crime, depending upon the circumstances, include assault, menacing, manslaughter, criminal sexual acts, and a variety of other serious crimes. Creating hate graffiti would be a Class E felony carrying up to four years in state prison.
“We must have zero tolerance for this kind of behavior, and better safeguard our religious institutions and properties from thieves and vandals,” Addabbo added.
Having passed the Senate, the bills are now under consideration by the Assembly Committee on Codes.