PORT RICHMOND (WABC) — The bias crime epidemic on Staten Island is sparking more action by the NYPD and the FBI.
Two police towers stand guard and 10 police cruisers are now patrolling Port Richmond, and a joint task force is trying to reassure Mexican immigrants they will be protected against hate crimes, regardless of their immigration status.
If their presence isn’t enough to make the Mexican community feel secure, words are intended to do the trick.
"The concern the Mexican community may be reluctant to come forward, may be issues with immigration status. We sent officers of Mexican descent to allay them of their concerns, to tell them we are not an immigration enforcement agency," NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said.
But it may take some time to sink in.
"The police drive by. They see Mexicans. They stop us. I don’t look for protection from anybody," Felipe Mendez said.
"The people are scared because they don’t have papers. They don’t have papers," Felipe Torrez said.
There have been 11 reported bias attacks on Staten Island since April.
Torrez knows of three victims.
Eyewitness News asked him if he’d be scared to call the police if he were attacked.
"I’m not scared. I’m not going to bother anybody. I’m not going to have a problem with anybody," Torrez said.
Community advocates believe motive behind the attacks are more deeply rooted than hate.
"At a deep level, this is about opportunities for employment and things for youth to do," said Daniel Coates, of Make The Road New York.
Kelly plans to keep this presence in Port Richmond to deter the attacks.
Coates says it’s needed because attitudes like fear and hate won’t change overnight.
In addition, the FBI in New York and the NYPD Hate Crimes Unit has created an ad hoc task force in response to recent bias attacks.
The task force is hoping to talk to people with information about the individuals responsible for these attacks.