The number of hate crimes is up, according to the FBI’s newly released 2017 hate crimes statistics, continuing a trend seen the past few years.

There were more than 1,000 additional hate crimes reported in 2017 compared to a year earlier, but there was also increased reporting from law enforcement.

The increase includes a 37 percent spike in anti-Semitic crimes between 2016 and 2017. In 2016, participating law enforcement agencies reported 684 such incidents to the FBI. In 2017, that number jumped to 938.

Since 1996, the highest number of anti-Jewish hate crimes took place in 1996, when there were 1,109 such crimes. Since 2008, anti-Jewish hate crimes declined each year until 2015, when they began to rise again. This year’s spike in anti-Jewish crimes is the steepest recorded increase in the FBI’s online database going back to 1996. It’s also the year that represents the highest level of participation from law enforcement agencies.


Anti-Jewish hate crime incidents

2014: 609

2015: 664

2016: 684

2017: 938


The numbers are sobering, noted Anti-Defamation League CEO and National Director Jonathan A. Greenblatt in a statement. 

 “This report provides further evidence that more must be done to address the divisive climate of hate in America,” he said. “That begins with leaders from all walks of life and from all sectors of society forcefully condemning anti-Semitism, bigotry and hate whenever it occurs.”

The hate crime statistics are an annual compilation from the Uniform Crime Reporting Program that tracks such crimes across the country. The information comes from thousands of law enforcement agencies, which are encouraged to submit incidents that meet the FBI’s definition of hate crimes.

The program defines a hate crime as “a committed criminal offense which is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s bias(es) against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender or gender identity.” 

The emphasis on motivation is important because offenders can incorrectly assume someone is part of a targeted group, as when, for instance, a white nationalist gunman went to an Overland Park, Kansas, JCC and to a Jewish retirement community in 2014 and killed three non-Jewish people in an anti-Semitic attack. In such cases, the FBI still counts the crime as a bias crime because the perpetrator was driven by bigotry or hatred of a particular group.

The FBI tracks six different types of bias that motivate hate crimes: race/ethnicity/ancestry; religion; sexual orientation; disability; gender; and gender identity. Each type of bias is further divided. Anti-Jewish crimes, as the FBI calls them, are tracked under the religion category, which includes bias crimes against Buddhists, Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Hindus, Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Protestants, Christians and even atheists and agnostics. 


Total hate crime incidents

2014: 5,479

2015: 5,850

2016: 6,121

2017: 7,175


Looking at available FBI numbers since 1996, this year’s high is still below 2001, when a total of 9,730 hate crimes was reported.

The latest report reveals that 59.6 percent of all single-bias hate crime incidents were race-based, with almost half of the crimes committed against African Americans. Hate crimes against Latinos and Arab Americans increased significantly; crimes against Asian Pacific Americans and Native Americans were up, too. Attacks on members of the LGBT community also increased.

Religiously based hate crimes are up by 23 percent, and 20.6 percent of the total hate crime victims were targeted due to religious bias. It was the largest number of religion-based hate crimes reported, apart from 2001. Jews were the most targeted of any religious group, as 60 percent of religion-based crimes were against perceived Jewish targets. 

The ADL cautions that the FBI’s statistics are likely low. Even with 16,149 law enforcement agencies submitting reports, there are many jurisdictions that did not report any hate crimes, including at least 91 cities with populations exceeding 100,000 people. And 87 percent of respondents nationwide, including many big cities, affirmatively reported zero incidents.

“You can’t move what you can’t measure; without accurate reporting we don’t have a real sense of how widespread hate crimes are and what needs to be done to address bias in society,” Greenblatt said. “It is incumbent on police departments, mayors, governors and county officials across the country to tally hate crimes data and report it to the FBI. We must do more to make sure that cities report credible data.”

It is also unclear if higher numbers represent increased hate or result from higher participation from law enforcement. Some ADL officials have theorized that there may also be greater awareness around reporting hate crimes now.

In Arizona, out of 87 participating agencies, 20 reported hate crime incidents, which is a slight bump from the 18 agencies that reported hate crimes last year. In 2016, the 18 agencies reported 213 incidents. This year, the 20 agencies reported 264 hate crimes. 

“Too many jurisdictions in Arizona did not report or reported zero hate crimes,” said ADL Arizona Regional Director Carlos Galindo-Elvira. “Local police departments and elected officials need to note the urgency in reporting hate crimes data and follow-through in reporting it to the FBI.” 

Nationally, the ADL is calling on federal and state officials to track hate more effectively, including enacting better hate crime laws and implementing improved training for police officials. 

The FBI’s UCR Program was initially conceived in 1929 to aid law enforcement in gathering consistent information across different departments. 

Since 1990, when Congress passed the Hate Crime Statistics Act, the UCR Program has been responsible for fulfilling the congressional mandate to collect hate crime data. JN

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