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After Attacks, What Is New York City Doing To Protect Jewish Communities?

NOEL KING, HOST:

All right. The attacker in yesterday's attack was arrested in Harlem in New York City, which is about 30 miles away from Monsey. New York City is home to the largest population of Jewish people outside of Israel. So what is the city doing to protect Jewish communities there?

I'm on the line now with New York's Mayor Bill de Blasio. Good morning, Mr. Mayor.

BILL DE BLASIO: Good morning.

KING: Have you talked to anyone in Monsey, N.Y.?

DE BLASIO: I've talked to so many people in Jewish community of New York City who are very, very close to their colleagues in Monsey. It's a - it's a very tight relationship. It's not that far away.

KING: OK. There's been a surge of anti-Semitic attacks in New York. Governor Cuomo says there have been at least 13 in the state since December 8. Then, there was that horrific attack in New Jersey on the kosher grocery store. In New York City specifically, Mr. Mayor, what are you doing about this?

DE BLASIO: Well, we consider this a crisis, really. There is a growing anti-Semitism problem in this whole country. It has taken a more and more violent form. We are doing three things in particular. This is what I announced to the community yesterday. And I stood with community leaders of all different communities who stood in solidarity with the Jewish community in Brooklyn yesterday.

So one piece, of course, is very physical and immediate - intensified NYPD presence - police presence, along with things like security cameras we'll be putting into key locations in the community, additional light towers so that people know that there's eyes on the situation, that there's clear vigilance to prevent attacks. We have made it a habit, when the Jewish community is attacked anywhere in the world, to reinforce key Jewish community locations in New York City. But we're doing it now on a much bigger scale, particularly in Brooklyn, where we think the most important vulnerabilities are.

Second is an effort to bring together a variety of communities in common cause with the Jewish community - community safety coalitions, we call them. And this will be in key neighborhoods, where you'll see a type of community patrol. But it will be multi-ethnic on purpose. It will be people of different backgrounds warding off attacks, connecting particularly with young people. And we've had a problem with some instances with young people acting on anti-Semitism, sometimes with - out of great ignorance. We want people of all different communities intervening, connecting with young people, stopping these attacks before they happen.

And then, lastly, is the education piece of the equation - again, focused on young people - in our schools, starting when school comes back in a few days, an intensified curriculum focusing on anti-Semitism and the danger that is created by hate and how any acts of hate ultimately are not only destructive onto themselves, but they come back to hurt all communities and that domino effect that hate just breeds more hate and more violence. That's what we need to teach our young people.

KING: You were talking about some very concrete steps there. I want to ask you something. My colleague Hansi Lo Wang, who I was on the line with just before you - he was in Monsey yesterday. He talked to a man named Lazar Klein (ph). This is what the man told him.

LAZAR KLEIN: I would say everyone that can carry should carry, anybody who has a license should carry. Anybody that could apply for a license should definitely carry. And just all around, be more prepared. That's all.

KING: Now, this concerned gentleman is arguing for more people carrying guns. Does that worry you?

DE BLASIO: It's not a solution, from my point of view. And it's the kind of situation in New York City - look, we have, on purpose, very strict gun laws. We also are the safest big city in America. There's a direct correlation between those two facts. Strong gun safety laws and a very, very strong police department that works closely with communities - and that's what has helped us keep people safe. And actually, crime has continued to go down in New York City. But we've seen this uptick in bias crimes - some of them acts of violence, many others symbolic acts. But we take them all seriously.

So no, that's not the solution from my point of view. The solution is police working very closely with the community. You know that phrase - if you see something, say something? It's very, very pertinent here. We used to talk about international terrorism with that phrase. But now it's about people - if they hear folks in their own community or folks at work or any place saying threatening, biased things against other communities, we need to know about it. Our police need to know about it because an atmosphere of hate has developed in this country.

You know, the forces of hate have been unleashed, and more permission has been given for hate speech. And some of that has to do with the reality in Washington, and some of that has to do with social media. But everyone's vigilance actually is key to stopping these attacks before they happen.

KING: Mr. Mayor, in the 15 seconds we have left, do you worry that this is the new normal?

DE BLASIO: It cannot become the new normal. Right now there's a danger that it could be. And again, hate's being given permission. But no, this is one of those moments in history where we all have to stand and be counted and make sure it is not the new normal.

KING: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, thank you so much.

DE BLASIO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.