The NYPD will be on high alert during the month of Ramadan after religious-based attacks killed hundreds in New Zealand and Sri Lanka.
Police Commissioner James O’Neill and other police officials delivered their annual briefing Tuesday ahead of the Islamic holy month, which begins May 5 and ends June 4. They said there are no credible threats against New York City’s Muslim community or mosques.
But the briefing followed an attack last month in which 50 people were killed in two mosques in New Zealand, and several coordinated attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka last weekend that killed more than 300 people. Government officials have said that two Islamist extremist groups may have been involved in the Sri Lanka attacks and that they may have been retaliation for the New Zealand killings, according to The New York Times.
“It’s a time of spiritual reflection, renewal of faith and commitment to charity. It all hinges on every person’s right to worship freely and without fear,” O’Neill said, addressing the crowd at police headquarters. He said that while there are no specific threats to the Muslim community, the NYPD will be “increasing patrols and placing high-visibility posts around our many houses of worship.”
O’Neill added that it was important for the community to communicate with police during Ramadan and beyond.
According to NYPD statistics, there were 361 total hate crimes in 2018, an increase from 2017, when there were 338 recorded hate crimes. But contrary to overall statistics, police said anti-Muslim attacks saw a decrease last year from the year before: 18 in 2018, compared with 34 in 2017. So far this year, there have been three anti-Muslim hate crimes.
“This level of personal connection is critical,” he said. “What we found is that when we work together toward a common purpose, we get public safety that truly looks and feels different. We want everyone to have input about those issues in their neighborhood.”
John Gordon, an intelligence research specialist for the NYPD, said awareness of racist symbols and images can “raise our collective vigilance” and urged members of the community to contact police if they see any such warning signs.