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Suffolk County Announces Task Force To Prosecute Hate Crimes Amid Spike In Anti-Asian Violence; 'Statistics Do Not Lie'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- As violence against Asian Americans increases across the U.S., leaders on Long Island have created a special hate crimes task force.

Law enforcement in Suffolk County is pledging to take action, CBS2's Jennifer McLogan reported Monday.

Wei Wei Zhang is galvanizing her Long Island Asian American community amid continued pain.

"In Plainview, an Uber driver, he refused to take an Asian-faced person... 'Go back to China,' even though he's an American, too," said Zhang, who sits on the Suffolk County Asian American Advisory Board.

"Our message is very simply. We will not tolerate hate in Suffolk County," said District Attorney Timothy Sini.

DA Sini, flanked by eight assistant district attorneys with special training in bias-related offenses, launched a special unit to prosecute hate crimes.

"Having a stand-alone hate crime unit is very unique," said Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart.

Besides jail, those convicted will receive anti-bias education in collaboration with the Human Rights Commission.

"It's very painful. Whether it's female, male, transgender, Black, brown, Asian, it escalates very quickly," said Lynda Perdomo-Ayala, chair of the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission.

The task force comes on the heels of mandatory police reform across New York.

Victims say hate crimes and bias in policing perpetuate a message of intolerance and discrimination that reverberate throughout an entire community.

Recent statistics from the Justice Department reveal Black drivers in Suffolk County were four times more likely than white drivers to be pulled over in traffic stops. Hispanic drivers were twice as likely to be pulled over.

"We're policed different over here. They want to pull us out our car and search us... I was scared," said Robert Johnson from Wyandanch.

"It's very alarming. I speak from personal experience, the color of my skin. But statistics do not lie," said Dawn Lott from the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission.

"The diversity that exists in this county is a strength of ours that we celebrate," said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

He's urging citizens to report each and every hate crime, pledging all will be investigated and brought to justice.

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