HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. - Denise of Shirley, Long Island, experienced discrimination firsthand when she was a teenager.
"Somebody threw ice at me and called me the n-word and I just stood there and got on the bus and just ignored him and went on with my life," she told FOX 5 NY.
Denise is a strong woman who learned to move past that painful encounter. Now she is glad to hear that Suffolk County officials are working to prevent similar incidents.
"We will not stand to let racism go unchecked in this county or turn a blind eye to crimes committed out of hate and discrimination," said Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini.
He announced Monday the launch of his office's first Hate Crimes Task Force. Specially trained prosecutors will now join forces with the Suffolk County Police Department for an all-hands-on-deck approach to investigating and prosecuting reported hate crimes. It's a way to show victims that the county will prioritize their cases.
"This includes their race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, religion, age, disability or sexual orientation," Sini said.
There will also be educational programs requiring offenders to examine their motives and learn about hate crimes.
The creation of this task force comes as we've seen a spate of anti-Asian attacks across our area and the country.
"While we have not seen a tremendous increase in hate crimes that other parts of the country have experienced, we want to assure our residents that we take every crime very seriously and want to encourage anyone who may have information about a possible hate crime to contact Crimestoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS," Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said.
Despite that terrible incident decades ago, Denise said she has always felt safe on Long Island.
"I feel like we are the only place that our people don't get shot by cops in the United States. So we respect them and they respect us," said Denise, who didn't want to give us her last name.
While the Hate Crimes Task Force in Suffolk County learns and grows, it hopes to make recommendations to the state if it finds laws that it believes should be amended or strengthened.
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