“They basically want it to be a killing or it has to rise to a certain level, and I think it is fundamentally a failure to see how these hate crimes manifest,” said Taina Bien-Aimé, the executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women.
Though eight women had been attacked by Dec. 29, the detective handling the case, Daniel Arteaga, only knew of four cases when he interviewed Ms. Fortis, Chief Harrison said. Two of the victims had not filed reports and two others had been attacked outside the station, so their reports went to precinct detective squads, he said.
On Dec. 30, Detective Arteaga took a woman who had been attacked four days earlier on a ride to search for the attacker, prosecutors said. She spotted a man wearing clothing that looked like her attacker’s and pointed him out.
The man, Benny Watts, 50, was arrested, charged with misdemeanor assault and released without bail the next day. He was not immediately charged with the other attacks.
After Mr. Watts’s arrest, the Brooklyn district attorney, Eric Gonzalez, asked the police to investigate the attacks as hate crimes, a spokesman for his office said.
Police training materials say that a pattern of unprovoked assaults involving similar people in the same area is highly suggestive of a hate crime. But Mike Fanning, a former supervisor in the Police Department’s hate-crimes task force, said that even if police officers suspect bias as a motive, they are often reluctant to use the classification without evidence to support charges.