Northeastern Regional Office
26 Federal Plaza
Northeastern Region Case Highlights
In April 2017, CRS services were requested by school officials in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico, in response to community tension following allegations of disparate treatment of students based on race and color. These allegations stemmed from reports that school officials, instead of disciplining African American students for school infractions, were referring them to law enforcement where they faced the possibility of criminal charges. In addition, allegations that the schools were unresponsive to racial bullying concerns contributed to tensions among the local community, schools, and local law enforcement. As an example, CRS received reports that an 11-year-old African American student was being held in a juvenile detention facility after shoving two other students in reaction to an alleged bullying incident.
In May 2017, CRS met with school and law enforcement officials in separate meetings to identify ways in which both institutions could work together to address tensions within the community. These meetings also addressed the concerns about how the treatment of students in Puerto Rican schools contributes to the school-to-prison pipeline problem. As a result of the dialogues, law enforcement pledged the services of the internal Social Services Division to work with students and agreed to make an effort to recommend mediation, instead of legal proceedings, for future school cases, when practical.
In January 2019, the Sikh Coalition, a community-based organization that works to protect the rights of Sikhs and other religious minorities, requested CRS services due to perceptions of bias against the Sikh community by the local law enforcement officials regarding procedures for visitors to the Statue of Liberty National Monument, which includes Liberty Island and Ellis Island in New York. Practicing Sikhs carry kirpans, a small sword that is a Sikh article of faith. Security permits kirpans on Ellis Island, but not on Liberty Island, resulting at times in confusion.
CRS initially met with leaders from the Sikh Coalition and local law enforcement in July 2019 to facilitate a dialogue around the security procedures and the concerns of the Sikh community. At the meeting, local law enforcement officials explained that additional security at Liberty Island is necessary to ensure the safety of visitors and protect the monument. CRS shared information about its training for law enforcement on the customs and cultural aspects of the Sikh American community. The local law enforcement officials requested the training, entitled Engaging and Building Partnerships with Sikh Americans, for its officers as a way to improve relations with Sikh park visitors.
From October 29 through November 1, 2019, CRS facilitated eight sessions of the training program for approximately 100 security personnel who work to secure the ferry terminals in both New York and New Jersey that visitors take to reach Liberty Island. Evaluations after each session showed that 96% of respondents found the training to be a worthwhile use of time, with 100% agreeing that the training enhanced their knowledge of the Sikh community.
In the fall of 2019, a local government representative contacted CRS following a spate of alleged anti-Semitic incidents, including instances where a group of men reportedly targeted and assaulted several Jewish men and boys while crossing the street and where a man hit a rabbi with a paving stone. According to a New York Police Department (NYPD) report, anti-Semitic hate crimes across New York City increased by 30% from 2018 to 2019, while overall hate crimes increased by 19%.
CRS met with representatives from the local Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) field office and interfaith leaders to form a planning group to address the incidents and improve dialogue between law enforcement and the community. CRS had previously communicated with local Jewish community organizations following an earlier attack on a Jewish man in September 2019 and reached out to them again. These organizations also joined the planning group. The group agreed to plan a CRS Protecting Places of Worship (PPOW) forum. Additional participants joined the planning group, including the U.S. Attorney’s Office, state human rights office, and local human rights office.
In January 2020, city leaders hosted the PPOW forum, which provided the local interfaith community with opportunities for collaboration as well as resources and information regarding securing their places of worship. The forum included a discussion on hate crime prosecutions and investigations, an overview of the FBI’s active shooter response training, and a panel on strategies for protecting places of worship. Panelists at the PPOW included representatives from the federal and state law enforcement. More than 100 community members, including members of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities, attended the forum.
Forum participants asked panelists about the recent series of reported anti-Semitic attacks and federal, county, and local law enforcement representatives advised that their offices were investigating the attacks as hate crimes. Prosecutors ultimately filed hate crime charges in one of the incidents.
In the summer of 2020, CRS facilitated a series of dialogues and provided consultation to city officials and community leaders in Geneva, New York to address racial tensions caused by perceptions of bias-based policing exacerbated by protests and counterprotests organized by local civil rights groups and law enforcement, respectively, and held in solidarity with national demonstrations and counterdemonstrations. CRS facilitated dialogues with city officials, law enforcement, and local community groups; provided contingency planning consultation for protests; and supported efforts to draft an antihate crimes resolution.
City officials initially contacted CRS in the spring of 2020 to request assistance with updating a previously approved memorandum of understanding between the city and local community leaders undertaken to improve police-community relations. Shortly thereafter, local community groups experienced an increase in race-related tensions due to the law enforcement-related death of George Floyd and other Black Americans and the resulting nationwide protests. Throughout June and July, local civil rights leaders held protests several times each week in solidarity with the nationwide demonstrations. City officials, law enforcement officials, and downtown business owners expressed concerns that the destruction that broke out in other cities also could occur locally. The city issued a press release advising residents to stay home, which further inflamed tensions in the Black community.
Throughout the summer of 2020, CRS met with representatives of the city government, the police department, and local civil rights leaders to discuss possible ways to address community conflict and identify solutions to strengthen relations between the city’s Black community and police. CRS facilitated four meetings with police officers to discuss the impact of the national protests and strategies for community engagement to address negative community perceptions of the police. Separate meetings with civil rights leaders gave them an opportunity to discuss possible solutions. As part of the ongoing efforts to quell racial tension, in June 2020, CRS also convened the city, police, and civil rights leaders to discuss best strategies to move the city beyond the tensions that fueled the protests earlier that month.
In early July, the local police union organized a rally in support of law enforcement at the same location as the ongoing civil rights protests. Civil rights leaders also planned a counterprotest to immediately follow the rally. City leaders feared that there would be clashes between the protestors. CRS met with city leaders to provide contingency planning in advance of the protests, which ultimately were peaceful.
Following the protests, CRS facilitated two dialogues, the first with civil rights leaders to identify concerns shared throughout the city’s Black communities, particularly across generational lines, and a second that also included the city manager and representatives from local community organizations. Civil rights leaders presented a series resolution to the city council in July on issues relating to police-community relations, the majority of which the council approved.
City leaders also requested CRS’s assistance with drafting an anti-hate resolution called for by city residents. CRS provided city leaders with sample drafts of anti-hate proclamations and resolutions from several states. The city council passed a resolution in early September 2020 pledging that the city would “foster a transparent environment of respect, dignity, and mutual understanding among diverse groups and individuals via education, dialogues, and community partners.”
CRS remains engaged with the community and is continuing to work with the city and community leaders to address conflicts and improve police-community relations.
In February 2020, a transgender woman was murdered in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, sparking outrage and fear in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer or Questioning (LGBTQ) communities in Puerto Rico. A video posted online appeared to show the victim being threatened, harassed, and murdered. Several weeks later, two other transgender women were murdered in Humacao, Puerto Rico, exacerbating the community’s concerns. CRS met with local LGBTQ stakeholders, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) coordinator for civil rights in San Juan and representatives from a coalition of community leaders and nonprofit organizations supporting the LGBTQ community to provide consultation on how to address the communities’ tensions and fears.
CRS facilitated a May 2020 meeting between the FBI’s San Juan, Puerto Rico, field office and local LGBTQ stakeholders to discuss FBI community engagement. The parties set goals of developing trust between federal agencies, law enforcement, and the LGBTQ community to address issues including a lack of understanding of transgender issues and perceptions that Puerto Ricans are treated differently due to the island’s commonwealth status. CRS shared examples of community engagement strategies and best practices for communication. CRS also introduced officials with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico to representatives of the LGBTQ stakeholder groups to facilitate the LGBTQ groups’ communication of their concerns to that office.
On October 31, 2017, community tension increased following reports that federal prosecutors filed terrorism charges against a Muslim man for allegedly crashing a truck into pedestrians on the Hudson River Park’s bike path, killing eight and injuring 11 others. Reports indicated hate crimes targeting Muslims increased in the alleged terrorist’s hometown of Paterson, New Jersey. Due to this sudden increase in reported hate crimes and the corresponding tensions in Paterson’s Muslim community, the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General (USAO-NJ) and a local county prosecutor’s office asked CRS to conduct a Bias Incidents and Hate Crimes forum.
CRS formed a planning group in early October 2018 comprised of representatives from the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, and a local prosecutor’s office to organize the event, plan discussion topics, and identify panelists.
On December 4, 2018, approximately 100 members from the city’s African American, Jewish, white, Latino, and Muslim communities; as well as students attended the forum. The panelists were comprised of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness; the USAO-NJ; Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office; Passaic Police Department; Anti-Defamation League representatives; and faith-based community leaders. The participants convened for a three-part Bias Incidents and Hate Crimes forum to raise awareness of bias-motivated incidents and hate crimes, promote an exchange of ideas, increase communication among participants, and improve police-community relations. CRS facilitated the forum that included panel discussions and question and answer sessions with Muslim, Jewish, and Christian community leaders; the USAO-NJ; the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General; the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office; and local law enforcement. Throughout the forum, participants expressed concerns about the rise in national hate crimes and the need to secure houses of worship.
After the forum, CRS continued working with the Attorney General’s Office to facilitate Bias Incidents and Hate Crimes forums across the state and raise awareness of bias-motivated crimes.
CRS began providing conflict resolution services to the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General in 2018 to address allegations of anti-Semitism in Ocean County. In FY 2019, the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General requested that CRS continue addressing tensions between the growing Orthodox Jewish community and other community groups. According to Jewish community members in Ocean County, conflict increased due to an ongoing series of bias incidents involving anti-Semitic remarks targeting Jewish community members, including anti-Semitic posts on social media. These incidents coincided with an increase in the population of Jewish residents in the area.
Following CRS consultation services during summer 2019, a working group with the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General and other state officials, a local prosecutor’s office and Jewish community leaders formed to discuss allegations of anti-Semitism and general community relations in Ocean County.
During a CRS-facilitated working group session, Jewish community leaders and other community members agreed to hold a series of community dialogues to address communities’ concerns about anti-Semitism. The New Jersey Office of the Attorney General and other state officials committed to implementing and supporting community dialogue sessions throughout the county, both with CRS present and on their own using the CRS framework. CRS provided consultation services to both offices to help them grow their internal capacity to facilitate the dialogues.
Community leaders representing the Jewish, Christian, Latino, and African American communities, along with other civic leaders and school officials, met in early September 2019, for two CRS-facilitated community dialogues. Participants identified existing barriers to communication and cultural challenges. They also discussed ongoing concerns about rising anti-Semitism in the area and religious tensions, as well as strategies for building more positive relations in their communities.
Following the two September dialogues, the participants agreed to engage in additional CRS-facilitated community dialogues and to use the CRS dialogue process in their own communities.
A series of alleged bias-motivated arsons in African American churches in Louisiana throughout the spring of 2019 increased fears and tensions in African American faith communities across the country. In March 2019, African American religious leaders in Union County, New Jersey, asked CRS for assistance in addressing community tension and fear caused by the reports of church burnings and to provide the community with information on how to remain safe.
African American clergy who attended a Protecting Places of Worship (PPOW) forum in Carteret, New Jersey, asked CRS to conduct a similar program at a local church in nearby Scotch Plains. They wanted their congregations and the area’s interfaith communities to be prepared with information about protecting places of worship following the shootings in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Charleston, South Carolina; Oak Creek, Wisconsin; and other communities. They believed that bringing a PPOW forum to their communities would address concerns about creating a secure environment where their congregations could safely worship.
During a series of PPOW forum planning sessions held in the spring and early summer of 2019, CRS provided information about the availability of federal, state, and local resources to address hate crimes and secure places of worship.
On June 20, 2019, CRS facilitated a PPOW forum for approximately 100 participants that featured presentations from the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Protection; the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General; Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); Union County Prosecutor’s Office; Union County Office of Emergency Management; and Union County Police Department.
In December 2016, LGBTQ leaders in the Bronx, New York, requested CRS services due to the rise in perceived hate crimes against LGBTQ communities across the country. The resulting community tension prompted community leaders, including community advocates, clergy members, and elected officials to join together to develop strategies to unite the community and raise awareness about impacts of bias and hate in New York City.
CRS provided consultation services to LGBTQ leadership, including best practices on conducting safe public events, effective working group structures, and the use of event marshals to improve public safety. The LGBTQs United as One rally took place on April 1, 2017, outside the Bronx Supreme Court, and included speakers from LGBTQ groups and the faith-based community. CRS also facilitated dialogues which helped improve communication between local law enforcement and event organizers during the event. The event, which lasted about six hours, was peaceful and well received by the community.
Lakewood Township in New Jersey is home to the largest yeshiva (traditional Jewish religious school) in the United States, which in recent years has grown to more than 6,500 students. As the area’s Hasidic Jewish population increased, many of its members perceived a rise in anti-Semitism and resistance to their growing presence.
At the request of the New Jersey Attorney General's Office (NJAG), CRS facilitated a series of meetings in Ocean County, New Jersey, in February 2018, to address the conflicts in the region. CRS facilitated the first meeting with representatives from the NJAG’s office, leaders from the Latino and African American communities, and Hasidic community members from the Jackson, Lakewood, and Tom's River neighborhoods. At the meeting, participants identified key issues facing Lakewood township and the surrounding communities, including references to Hasidic community members as “invaders,” township ordinances appearing to adversely impact Hasidic community members, negative press allegedly used to incite anti-Semitism, and social media posts that supported negative stereotypes.
Meeting participants formed a planning group to develop community-driven action steps to address the alleged negative stereotypes and perceived hostile climate facing the Hasidic community. Additionally, the NJAG's office provided information on existing hate crime training and cultural awareness programs for officers and schools.
Throughout the spring of 2018, CRS worked with the NJAG's office, the planning group, and the communities to identify external resources which support community-based processes to create greater unity in diverse communities. CRS also identified goals for community meetings based on conversations with a diverse group of residents.
In April 2018, CRS convened prosecutors from local counties, leaders from the Jewish and Christian communities, and local law enforcement for a facilitated dialogue. In small groups, participants discussed their concerns about religious and race relations and strategies to build more positive relationships in their communities.
As a direct result of CRS’s involvement in Lakewood and the surrounding towns, community groups and law enforcement in Ocean County drafted a “Love Your Neighbor” proclamation to be observed May 25-27, 2018, as a public step to show broad support for religious unity. That same weekend, Christian, Muslim, and Jewish congregations heard the same sermon, which local faith leaders had drafted, on their respective days of worship.
In June 2016, at the request of the Geneva, New York, City Manager, CRS facilitated a series of community dialogues with local stakeholders in response to reports of a violent altercation involving African American and Latino high school students. While over 50 students were involved in the incident, only African American students were arrested, resulting in allegations of disparate and unfair treatment of African American youth by police.
Through the fall of 2017, CRS held separate meetings with various stakeholders including local government and law enforcement, community groups, and residents. The meetings focused on tensions between the African American and Latino communities, as well as between those communities and law enforcement. The meetings also identified ways stakeholders could address and reduce these tensions in the community. Following these meetings, CRS facilitated a dialogue with the parties to share lessons learned and potential solutions to the community tensions, which included changes to the local civil service exam, resources for diversity and cultural events, and additional Spanish translation services.
To further support the community, CRS provided technical assistance and consultation services. The collaboration between CRS and local stakeholders produced a list of concerns and suggested solutions to be used by the City Manager, the Mayor, law enforcement, and community to help address and reduce the conflicts and tensions with the community.