Jan 10, 2024
As District Attorney, Wagstaff Will Use Advisory Board to Help Inform the Creation of Westchester’s First Hate Crimes Bureau and Immigration Bureau
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 10, 2024
White Plains, N.Y. - William O. Wagstaff III, a Democrat running for Westchester County District Attorney, announced today that his campaign is forming a Hate Crimes Advisory Board to address the sharp rise of hate and bias crimes across Westchester. The Advisory Board will assist with recommendations in support of creating the Office’s first-ever Hate Crimes Bureau to better investigate, prosecute, and support the victims of hate crimes.
William Wagstaff, a renowned civil rights and defense attorney, will be convening leaders of targeted communities in the coming weeks to advise on how to tactically combat and prevent rising hate crimes throughout Westchester County.
The Advisory Board will aid with Wagstaff’s plan to form Westchester County’s first dedicated Hate Crimes Bureau for the District Attorney's Office. It will also include plans to explore the formation of an Immigration Affairs Bureau to specifically focus on these vulnerable communities.
“This is crucial for the safety of us all. Data has shown that those fearful of their immigration status are less likely to report crimes, which makes everyone less safe,” Wagstaff said. “We need residents, both documented and undocumented, to cooperate with law enforcement and our investigators so that we can prosecute unlawful acts and prevent additional ones.”
Data has also indicated that certain individuals and businesses have sought to take advantage of this marginalized group through frauds. For instance, companies that falsely represent themselves and/or unfairly compensate their employees for work performed, knowing that their employees will be too afraid to report them. Also on the rise are financial investment schemes targeting newly arrived immigrants, as are schemes involving individuals impersonating law enforcement or Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.
“The Hate Crimes Bureau will focus on investigating, prosecuting, and preventing these types of crimes,” Wagstaff announced. “Additionally, the bureau will be equipped with staff who can communicate with this diverse group of residents, explain their rights, and will have the cultural competence to meet their needs.”
Further, each of these bureaus will have dedicated hotlines and emails to report crimes, as well as victims’ services available. And each unit will serve the community as educators by providing community-based training and workshops to help prevent these crimes from happening.
“Heinous hate crimes tear apart our communities and make them inherently less safe when we fail to meet the moment with common sense public safety measures,” added Wagstaff. “Unfortunately, Westchester is no stranger to acts of hate in our communities, as evidenced most recently by the abhorrent rise of crimes targeting the Jewish community, but also other incidents of hate against the Asian community, the LGBTQ community, Islamophobia, and other heinous instances of crimes based upon one’s religion, race, ethnicity, nationality, sexual identity or orientation.”
Wagstaff doubled down on statistics cited by Governor Kathy Hochul in her State of the State address: hate-based incidents have increased by 69 percent in New York City between 2018 and 2022 and more than doubled outside of NYC during that time frame.
Members of the Advisory Board will join on a rolling basis, Wagstaff says and will provide the campaign with recommendations regarding initiatives and policies to be implemented when elected District Attorney.
“When elected District Attorney, my office will dedicate considerable time and resources to ensure we use and explore every tool available to combat hate crimes. As your next District Attorney, I pledge to make a Hate Crime Bureau a reality.”
This dedicated bureau aims to have trained staff capable of identifying bias-motivated crimes, Wagstaff, who would become Westchester’s first Black DA, stated.
“With recommendations from culturally competent leaders, the Bureau can prosecute offenders appropriately and allow our friends and neighbors to feel safe regardless of their background, race, religion, or myriad other identifying factors,” William stated.
Wagstaff vowed to “be responsive and engaged on hate crime issues and collaborative with law enforcement and community organizations such as the Westchester County Human Rights Commission and faith, civic and community leaders across the County.”
The Hate Crimes Advisory Board is “a proactive approach to hit the ground running as DA.”
“Westchester needs a District Attorney who will recognize and respond to these crimes endangering our welfare from day one, while also preventing them from happening in the first place,” Wagstaff concluded. “The status quo is not meeting the moment for our County, but together, we can bring the change we know we need for Westchester.”
William O. Wagstaff III is a respected attorney who has represented the victims of several of the most high-profile civil rights cases in recent history.
William’s commitment to his community is equal to his commitment to justice; he served as Special Prosecutor for Police Disciplinary Hearings, serves as Chair of the African American Men of Westchester Mentoring Committee, and is on the Board of Directors for the Legal Aid Society of Westchester.
Wagstaff’s civil rights advocacy, legal experience, and ability to effect change are earning him broad support for his run for Westchester County District Attorney. The campaign continues to build momentum and is well on its way to a healthy six-figure war chest by the January campaign finance filing.
Born and raised in Mount Vernon and a lifelong Westchester resident, he is now raising two great kids with his wife Christina.
For more information visit www.wagstaffforda.com.