NEW YORK (Jan. 5)
Nearly 17 percent of the hate crimes committed in the United States in 1991 were anti-Jewish, according to statistics released in a preliminary report by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
This made Jews the most frequent targets of bias crimes by far, when compared to other religious and most other ethnic groups, including Hispanics and Asian Americans.
Experts regard the data as significant but not completely reliable as yardsticks of bias in this country, because law-enforcement agencies in fewer than half the states contributed to the statistics. And even in those states where statistics were reported, they were often incomplete.
It was the first year for which the FBI collected hate crimes statistics, as mandated by the Hate Crime Statistics Act, which was passed by Congress in 1990.
A total of 4,755 bias-motivated offenses in 23 states were reported to the FBI in 1991.
Of the crimes, 792, or 16.7 percent, were anti-Jewish.
The only groups that were the targets of more hate crimes were African Americans — with 1,689 incidents, or 35.5 percent of the total — and whites, who make up the largest percentage of the American people.
Anti-white incidents totaled 888 crimes, or 18.7 percent of the total.
Anti-gay bias crimes totaled 421, or 8.9 percent of the total number of hate-motivated incidents reported.
Just 23 anti-Catholic, 26 anti-Protestant and 10 anti-Moslem incidents were counted.
DATA COLLECTION STILL FLAWED
The data collection system is still flawed, according to the FBI’s Robert McFall, who is acting chief of the training section in the Criminal Justice Information Services Division.
“It is not representative of the whole country at this point,” he said.
Even in some of the states that supplied information, such as California, which reported only five bias incidents, there are state laws mandating that information be sent to the FBI, but not the funding to put the reporting systems and training into place.
Despite the fact that the number of bias crimes in all categories is sure to rise over the next several years as states’ compliance with the Hate Crimes Statistics Act becomes more widespread, the relative percentage of crimes in each ethnic, religious and sexual orientation category will likely remain similar to what was found in 1991, said McFall.
“Anti-Semitism will continue to be a high category for us,” he said.
According to Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, which has worked closely with the FBI to implement the Hate Crimes Statistics Act, the 1991 data mark “the beginning of the process that delivers a message that society cares about hate crimes. Until now it’s been the responsibility of each minority group to fend for themselves.
“As efforts to implement HCSA continue and expand, we will learn more about the perpetrators of these especially hurtful crimes — and how to prevent them,” said Foxman.