The New York City Police Department will increase foot patrols at mosques during Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting that begins in August, as hate crimes against Muslims have increased from last year.
Commissioner Raymond Kelly, speaking today at the department’s annual pre-Ramadanconference at NYPD headquarters in Lower Manhattan, said police would increase patrols and officer visits at mosques. Since 2002, the department has given guidelines to commanders outlining key principles of Islam and activities that take place during the holiday, which starts Aug. 11 and ends Sept. 9.
“I know this is the most sacred time of the year for the Muslim faith,” Kelly said at the conference, which was attended by about 400 people including Muslim community leaders. “Our goal at the department is that you are able to experience it in safety and in peace.”
New York City has more than 100 mosques, compared with 10 in 1970, and more than 800,000 of its 8.21 million residents are Muslims, said Philip Banks III, chief of the department’s Community Affairs Bureau.
Police will also assign patrol cars to houses of worship and nearby areas, and deploy additional undercover units to deter burglars, Kelly said. The city’s Hate Crimes Task Force also will visit mosques and sites in Lower Manhattan and the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn where mosques have been proposed, said Michael Osgood, the task force’s commanding officer.
A plan to build a mosque and cultural center two blocks from the site of the World Trade Center, destroyed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, has drawn protests. A Quinnipiac University poll released July 1 found that New Yorkers, by an almost 2-to-1 ratio, oppose the plan by theCordoba Initiative, a group that seeks to improve Muslim relations with Western societies.
There have been nine hate crimes against Muslims in New York City this year, compared with five in 2009 and eight in 2008, said Osgood, who urged those attending the conference to contact police if they have information that can help them solve such cases.
Osgood said the department has recently solved two cases involving hate crimes against Muslims. They included the arrest of a man from the New York suburb of Suffolk County on Long Island for beating and spitting on a man in Queens, New York, last year and the arrest this year of a Florida man for dumping three Korans into a Manhattan public toilet.