Hate (or bias) crimes have a wider effect upon a community than random crimes. While we all feel sympathy and compassion for victims of random crime, we don’t usually take it “personally” or become fearful ourselves. However, the reaction to hate crimes is often different because victims of hate crimes are selected based upon one’s belief, right or wrong, that the victim merely belongs to a group of people he or she dislikes. As such, other members of that targeted group often react strongly with outrage and fear, and worry about their own future wellbeing. 

Westchester County District Attorney Anthony A. Scarpino, Jr. believes in the thorough investigation and strong prosecution of these despicable acts of violence. The Bias Crimes Unit is a Vertical Prosecution Unit that is responsible for investigating and prosecuting all such crimes occurring within the county and bringing the perpetrators to justice. If you are a victim of a hate crime, call 911 and tell the police that you believe you are the victim of a hate crime.  If you have any questions, or need any additional information, contact the Hate Crimes Unit of the District Attorney’s Office at (914) 995-4172.

There are a number of ways to report a crime.

Reporting a non-emergency
If you have information about past or ongoing criminal activity that is not of an emergency nature, you are encouraged to call your local police department through their non-emergency phone number. Remember, if it is not an emergency, do not call 911. This does not mean the crime is not important – it just helps the police to make the best use of their resources.

Examples of non-emergency calls

  • Reporting a crime with no suspect
  • Reporting a crime with a suspect, but the suspect is not on the scene
  • Non-emergency in progress (noisy party, drug use, etc.)
  • Ongoing crime issues (graffiti, ongoing drug dealing, etc.)

When you should call 911?
Call 911 when there is an emergency and lives are in danger. You should also call 911 when there is serious injury, a serious medical condition, a crime is in progress, or any other situation requiring immediate attention.
What should you do if you see a crime occurring?

  • Call 911 immediately.
  • Be observant and make mental notes. Are there any weapons involved? What is the address?
  • You should note any physical characteristics such as height, weight, race, beard or scars.
  • Try to remember clothing descriptions.
  • Note how many people are involved.
  • Make sure you tell the police if the persons involved are on foot or in a vehicle. If possible, what is the make and model of the vehicle?

Anonymously reporting a crime
If you wish to report a crime anonymously, you may use tip411, a Web-tip program that allows anyone with either a smartphone, tablet, standard cell phone or computer to send an anonymous text, photo or video to their local police department.

An app is available for both Android and iPhone devices (Google Play Store and iTunes Store: WC Crimetips) so that a tipster can contact their local police department in Westchester County with the police able to respond back, creating a two-way "chat."

What tip411 does

  • Protects the anonymity of the sender by assigning a six-digit code with numbers and letters.
  • The technology removes all identifying information before the police department sees it so there's no way to identify the sender.
  • Messages can be responded to in real time creating an instant two-way live "chat."
  • It allows you to text photos and/or video.
  • Since police are familiar with the local area they know the best questions to ask.
  • It allows the public to text information about drug activity, other suspicious or criminal activity people with outstanding warrants and cold cases.
  • If it's an active case, the tip is treated as one piece of information and detectives do other work to verify the validity of the tip.
  • Tips stored on redundant servers in different locations nationwide that are managed by the vendor.

What tip411 does not do

  • It doesn't track the identity of the tipster.
  • It is not a substitute for calling 911. If you need police or other emergency responders you still should call 911.
  • It does not retain data after the tipster completes the "chat".

Who is the district attorney?

The New York State Constitution provides that the district attorney is a public official elected by the residents of a particular county to investigate and prosecute offenses committed within that county. The district attorney, who is the chief prosecutor, has a four-year term of office.

Who is the Westchester County district attorney?

The district attorney for Westchester County is Anthony A. Scarpino, Jr.

Who is an assistant district attorney?

An assistant district attorney is an attorney who has been appointed by the district attorney to investigate and prosecute offenses. Such a person is a public officer as defined by New York State law and must be both a citizen of the United States and a resident of New York State.

What is an offense?

An offense is proscribed conduct, the elements of which are defined by statute, for which a sentence to a term of imprisonment or to a fine may be imposed by a criminal court.

What is a petty offense?

A petty offense is either a violation or a traffic infraction. Such offenses are not crimes.

What is a crime?

A crime is either a misdemeanor or a felony. A conviction for a crime is made part of a permanent criminal record.

What is a misdemeanor?

A misdemeanor is an offense for which a sentence of imprisonment for up to one year may be imposed.

What is a felony?

A felony is an offense for which a sentence of imprisonment in excess of one year may be imposed.

What are the criminal courts?

The criminal courts are the courts where criminal trials are conducted. They consist of superior courts and local courts.

What is a superior court?

The superior courts in Westchester County are the County Court and the Supreme Court, where felony trials are conducted.

What is a local court?

The local courts in Westchester County are the city, town, and village courts. These courts have preliminary jurisdiction over all offenses and trial jurisdiction for misdemeanors and petty offenses.

What is an arraignment?

An arraignment is a procedure whereby a defendant, a person who has been accused of a crime, is brought before the court for the purpose of the court setting the course of further proceedings in the action. At this time, defendants must be advised of the charges against them and their rights with respect to those charges. Foremost among those rights is the right to counsel.

A defendant has the right to the aid of counsel at the arraignment and at all subsequent proceedings. If financially unable to obtain counsel, the defendant has the right to have the court appoint an attorney unless the defendant is charged with only infractions.

How are charges brought against a defendant?

An accusatory instrument is a document prepared accusing the person of an offense. The accusatory instrument may be in the form of an information, complaint, superior court information or indictment.

What options does a court have with respect to the liberty of a defendant?

The court may release a defendant on his/her own recognizance, set bail for a defendant to post in order to be allowed to remain at liberty, or remand a defendant to custody pending the outcome of the criminal proceeding.

What is bail?

Bail is a specific monetary amount, fixed by the court, to assure the defendant’s return to the court for all the adjourned dates of the criminal proceeding.

How does a court determine the amount of bail?

The court may consider several factors in setting bail, including: the defendant’s character, reputation, habits, mental condition, employment, finances, criminal record, family ties to the community and length of residence in the county, the seriousness of the charged crimes, the weight of the evidence against the defendant, and the possible sentences that may be imposed upon conviction.

What is a grand jury?

The grand jury is a body consisting of not less than sixteen but no more than twenty-three persons, impaneled by a superior court to hear and examine evidence concerning criminal offenses, misconduct, nonfeasance, and neglect in public office. Grand jury proceedings are secret and while the District Attorney is the legal advisor to the grand jury, the decision whether or not to indict someone for a crime based upon the evidence presented remains exclusively with the grand jurors.

Who provides the grand jury with evidences?

An assistant district attorney acting as the People of the State of New York presents evidence through either the testimony of sworn witnesses and/or exhibits. The grand jury may also direct the assistant district attorney to present additional evidence. The People are under no obligation to inform an individual that a grand jury proceeding against him/her is pending or about to begin unless that person has already been arraigned in a local criminal court on a felony complaint charging an offense which is the subject of the grand jury proceeding. Such an individual has a right, upon his/her request, to testify before the grand jury and he/she may request that additional evidence be presented.

Every witness before a grand jury is required to give evidence regardless of a claim that he/she may incriminate him/herself. Thus all witnesses in the grand jury receive immunity from prosecution for any offense about which they gave evidence. If the subject of the investigation requests to testify, he/she must waive immunity from prosecution.

What is an indictment?

An indictment is a written accusation by a grand jury that charges a defendant with one or more offenses, at least one of which is a crime. In order to indict a defendant, at least twelve grand jurors must find that the evidence before it provides reasonable cause to believe a defendant committed such offense. This burden of proof is less than the people’s burden of proof at a trial which requires evidence of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt as found by the unanimous verdict of a jury of twelve or a judge in a non-jury setting.

If a defendant pleads not guilty, what is the next step in the criminal proceeding?

In general, the case will be adjourned for pretrial proceedings, which may include pretrial motions.

What is a motion?

A motion is an application seeking relief from the court. Defendants are permitted to make one all-inclusive, written motion within forty-five days of arraignment. The motion may include a request for dismissal of the charges, discovery of evidence, and suppression of evidence.

What happens after a defendant makes such a motion?

The district attorney’s office is given an opportunity to respond and the court will then render a decision. Both sides are given time to comply with the decision and order of the court and to prepare for trial. When the court has determined that the case is ready for trial, the case will be adjourned to a specific date for any pretrial hearings and/or trial.

What is a plea bargain?

A plea bargain is an agreement among the court, the district attorney and the defendant, whereby the defendant pleads guilty to an offense in exchange for a specific promised sentence. A defendant cannot plead guilty to less than all the charges in the accusatory instrument without the consent of the district attorney. If a defendant pleads guilty to all the charges, the district attorney’s consent to the sentence imposed is not required by law.

What is the order of a jury trial in a criminal case?

The order of a criminal jury trial is the following: a jury must be selected and sworn; the court must give preliminary instructions to the jury; the prosecutor must give an opening statement to the jury; the defendant may deliver an opening statement to the jury; the prosecutor must offer evidence in support of the criminal charges against the defendant; the  defendant may offer evidence in his/her defense; the prosecutor may offer rebuttal evidence; at the conclusion of the evidence, the defendant may deliver a summation to the jury; the prosecutor may deliver a summation to the jury; the court must then deliver final instructions to the jury; and the jury must then deliberate and, if possible, render a verdict.

What is meant by a jury rendering a verdict?

A jury renders a verdict when it announces the guilt or non-guilt of a defendant. To find a defendant guilty of any charge submitted to them, all jurors must agree that the defendant’s guilt was proven beyond a reasonable doubt. A verdict must be unanimous.

What happens if the jury is unable to render a unanimous verdict?

The court will give a special instruction to the jury to encourage further deliberations. If the jury is still unable to unanimously agree, the court will declare a mistrial and discharge the jury. The defendant may be retried in the future.

What happens if the jury finds the defendant guilty of the charges?

Thereafter, the defendant will be sentenced by the court.

When is a defendant sentenced?

When a defendant is convicted of a felony, a court must order a pre-sentence investigation conducted by the Department of Probation and may not pronounce sentence before receipt and review of a written report of that investigation.

When a defendant is convicted of a misdemeanor, a pre-sentence report may not be required and a defendant may be sentenced immediately.

Westchester County District Attorney Anthony A. Scarpino, Jr.Westchester County District Attorney Anthony A. Scarpino, Jr. has dedicated his career to protecting our community through the fair and ethical pursuit of justice. His thirty-seven years of combined experience as a Special Agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and as a Judge in and around Westchester County for thirty years have uniquely prepared him to lead as Westchester County’s chief law enforcement officer. District Attorney Scarpino now oversees a staff of one hundred eighteen assistant district attorneys, thirty-four criminal investigators and eighty-five support staff personnel.

The grandson of Italian immigrants, District Attorney Scarpino was born and raised in the City of Mount Vernon where he attended public school. After graduating from Mount Vernon High School, he attended the University of Connecticut and then Syracuse University College of Law where he earned his Juris Doctor Degree.

After law school, District Attorney Scarpino returned to his hometown where he began his career in public service as Assistant Corporation Counsel for the City of Mount Vernon. In 1977, he left local government and joined the FBI as a Special Agent investigating civil rights violations, bank robberies, kidnappings and extortion cases.

In 1984, at the age of thirty-two, District Attorney Scarpino was appointed Acting Mount Vernon City Court Judge earning him the distinction of youngest judge in the city’s history. He was elected to that seat a year later and soon went on to become Senior City Court Judge.

In 1988, District Attorney Scarpino was elected Westchester County Court Judge. During his first year on the bench, he was appointed to expand the Special Narcotics Part where he presided over some of the most serious criminal cases in Westchester County while working to keep drugs off our streets.

In 1993, District Attorney Scarpino was elected to the New York State Supreme Court for the Ninth Judicial District, which covers Westchester, Rockland, Dutchess, Putnam and Orange Counties. During his tenure, he was assigned to the Special Matrimonial Part, Civil Part and Westchester County’s Mental Health Part before being elected Westchester County Surrogate in 2000, a post to which he was re-elected in 2010.

In 2015, District Attorney Scarpino stepped down to join the private law firm DelBello, Donnellan, Weingarten, Wise & Wiederkehr LLP, leaving the bench for the first time in thirty years.

District Attorney Scarpino was an adjunct professor at the Pace University School of Law in White Plains and Iona College in New Rochelle where he shared both his experience and knowledge of criminal law, procedure and evidence with a new generation of students. He has served on the Office of Court Administration’s Advisory Committee on Criminal Law and Procedures as well as serving as Co-Chair of the Ninth Judicial District’s Pro Bono Committee. This service to our community’s unrepresented was recognized by the Westchester Women’s Bar Association with a “Justice for All” award in 2007 and again in 2015 with the “Access to Justice” award from Legal Services of the Hudson Valley.

A lifelong resident of Westchester County, District Attorney Scarpino and his wife, Leigh, reside in Bedford where they raised their three now-grown daughters.

Each year the Office of the District Attorney issues an annual report detaiing its accomplishments, programs and extensive community involvement of the past year. Additionally, the report looks ahead to how it can further community relations, continue the advancement of its programs and address the evolving nature of criminal prosecutions.


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