Doubts on Hate-Crime Laws Amid Rash of Anti-Gay Crimes

A spate of anti-gay attacks in Manhattan last month renewed interest in hate crimes enforcement, leading one lawmaker, State Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat, to call for a review of whether the bias-crime statutes are as strong as they could be (and a public hearing about it next week).

Harlem: Will Booze Ban Boost Barbers?

Her hands skillfully snipping a customer's locks, hairdresser Annieres Perez nodded as two clients waiting for their turn discussed the state's new law to curb the sale of a homemade alcoholic beverage called the Nutcracker.

Signed into law by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on August 19, the legislation is aimed at plugging loopholes that several barber shops in Washington Heights have exploited to sell the Nutcracker to underage high-school students.

But the possibility of greater police scrutiny around barber shops doesn't worry her, Perez said. "The law will probably help the hair salon industry here," she said.


Opponents Of Over-Policing Target 'Vague Laws'

You lose your balance as the A train stops short, brushing against the newspaper and bag of a fellow commuter as you regain your footing. Have you just stumbled, or have you committed a class A misdemeanor, Jostling? Were a police officer to apply the statute's vague wording and arrest you, and a judge to agree with the officer's interpretation, you could be facing up to one year in prison.

Jostling, along with Criminal Trespassing, Disorderly Conduct, Loitering for the Purpose of Engaging in a Prostitution Offense and several other New York State laws contain broad and equivocal wording. Punishments for the above violations and crimes can potentially including jail time and heavy fines. Timothy Sandefur, the principal attorney of The Pacific Legal Foundation, condemns the serious consequences resulting from many vague laws on the federal and state level. "Vagueness," he wrote in a 2010 Forbes op-ed "turns the law into a sword dangling over citizens' heads."


DSK Case Is Unusual, But Scrutiny Of Accuser Is Not

With the recent media attention that surrounded the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case and public scrutiny of the alleged victim, advocacy organizations have been reminded of the obstacles that can discourage or even prevent victims of sex crimes from reporting to the law. According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) website, 60 percent of sexual assaults go unreported to police.

The fear of not being believed is a leading reason for not reporting sex assaults, said Amy Edelstein, Safe Horizon Rape Crisis Coordinator. Many victims also believe the assault was their fault.