Hate Fliers Investigated by Police in New York
While investigating several recent appearances of racist and anti-Semitic literature, Westchester County police came upon another, this one arriving in their own mailboxes. Since Monday, 29 packages of anti-Semitic and antiblack literature - photocopies of pages from hate Web sites - have been mailed to municipal police departments in the county.
The arrival of the packages, in manila envelopes, followed several other events, including one in which a girl was handed a similar batch of leaflets in Dobbs Ferry and a man in Port Chester handing out fliers that urged whites to celebrate Black History Month by killing black men and raping black women. The fliers also called for the death of Hispanics, Jews and Asians.
"I don't really recall any time where there's been such a rash of this stuff here," said John Kapica, the chief of the Greenburgh Police Department, which received a package with a return address from the Concerned Citizens of Westchester, the 's' in citizens crossed out.
After the mailings and leafleting, county authorities were busy drawing a line between a reprehensible distribution of written material and a criminal one, even as they scrambled to find the source or sources.
"All these events affect the whole calm of a community," said Jeanine F. Pirro, the Westchester County district attorney. "Groups start to look at each other in fear, anger and hatred, which can lead to violence, which can lead to retribution."
Andrew J. Spano, the county executive, added, "It's the kind of stuff that you have to do something about or it metastasizes."
The recent handing out of leaflets in Port Chester constituted felonies, Mrs. Pirro said, because the fliers involved direct threats against people based on race. Her office's bias bureau is working with the Port Chester police to identify the man who gave them out. One witness described him as wearing a cowboy hat.
"It was a crime, period, end of story," said Mrs. Pirro, who plans to charge the man with aggravated harassment, buttressed up to a Class E felony, carrying a potential sentence of four years in prison upon conviction.
The material sent to the police - rants about blacks, Jews and the Anti-Defamation League, all printed from various racist Web sites - did not contain a call to action and thus was not criminal, Mrs. Pirro said. "Hateful, vile and repulsive, but not criminal," she said.
The focus on the Anti-Defamation League, in a large portion of the material sent to the police, might stem from the league's involvement in training the county police recently on how to track racist groups online, said Joel Levy, its New York regional director. Municipalities, in turn, receive police training through the county, but Mr. Levy also said the anger at the Anti-Defamation League might have to do with its frequently stated concern recently that the movie "The Passion of the Christ'' could lead to increased anti-Semitism.
The timing of the mailings, shortly after the training, raised the question of whether the literature could have been sent to the police by one of their own. Mrs. Pirro was dismissive of the idea of police involvement, but she said an investigation was continuing.
Mrs. Pirro said the scope and serious of such incidents go beyond their numbers. "First, they are underreported," she said. "Also, the statistics do not reflect the ripple effect this has on the whole community, the fear factor."
That, along with Mrs. Pirro's suspicion that even noncriminal distribution of material that attacks minority groups can lead to more nefarious levels of activity down the road, is the reason her office is now looking for all the disseminators of the recent material, even those who sent the legal packages to the police. "People who spew this type of hate often cross the line," Mrs. Pirro said. "And when they do, we obviously want to be there to greet them."