Men say cops did nothing after bias crime

September 28, 2009 3:23:49 PM PDT
There is an investigation into a possible hate crime in Midtown, as well as into the police response to it. A group of gay men say they were attacked while walking down the street, and they called police. But they say that when police arrived, they did nothing about it. The attack happened early Saturday at Ninth Avenue and West 51st Street.

They say they officers asked a few questions, then got into their patrol car and drove off. Advocates say it is something that happens far too often.

"They basically said, 'There's nothing we can do,'" alleged bias victim Blake Hayes said.

Hayes says he's still shaken nearly three days after he and his friends say they were harassed and assaulted at 12:30 in the morning. He says it happened outside McCoy's after one of the patrons tossed a cigarette and shouted anti-gay slurs.

"I don't know if he intended to hit my friend or not, but it did," Hayes said. "So my friend turned around and said, 'Did you really just flick your cigarette at me?'"

After they exchanged words, he says the man became aggressive. He says the man hit one of his friends and then shoved another into a parked car, hard enough to leave a dent. Blake called 911 and says the police were on the scene almost instantly, but refused to do anything.

"We showed them my friend's lip, which had been cut when he got hit in the face," Hayes said. "They basically said that they couldn't get him for assault because there was no physical injury. And we said, 'We just showed you the cut.' And they said, 'Well, it has to be something bigger than that. And we can't charge him with harassment because we didn't see it happen.'...It's almost like they were saying it was OK. He didn't hit you hard enough. Forget about what he said to you."

Outreach workers say that last year, 61 percent of anti-gay violence victims did not report it to the NYPD. And 22 percent of those who did said police refused to take the report.

"The police must, in all these circumstances, be able to take the report and understand the crime or violence that has occurred," said Sharon Stapel, of the NYC Anti-Violence Project.

The Anti-Violence Project offers counselling to victims of gay and lesbian hate crimes. They have a 24-hour hotline for reporting incidents: 212-714-1141. More infomation is available on their Web site, AVP.org

Monday afternoon, Blake and his friends gave statements to detectives with the NYPD's Hate Crimes Task Force, which is now investigating the allegations.

"It seemed like every step of the way, they had already decided they were just going to leave and it wasn't a big enough deal for them to stay," Hayes said. "Was it because we're gay? Was it because our physical injuries weren't severe enough?"

Blake and his friends left the precinct convinced that the NYPD is taking the allegations seriously. The investigation is being hindered by the fact that the bar's security camera didn't work and because police let the suspect to leave without even taking his name. The bar's owner is cooperating in the case.

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WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King

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