Hate Crimes Undercount Feared


Jews were the targets of far more religion-based hate crimes than any other group in 2012, according to just-released statistics from the FBI.

At 62 percent of all such crimes, Jews as targets eclipsed Muslims (11.6 percent), Catholics (6.4 percent) or Protestants (2.6 percent.) The bureau recorded 674 anti-Semitic incidents nationwide involving 836 victims, including 696 criminal offenses. That’s down from 771 incidents, 1,480 victims and 1,318 offenses in 2011.

But the actual number of 2012 incidents may be higher, according to the Anti-Defamation League, because some 25 percent of U.S. law enforcement agencies did not report statistics for this year’s survey.

The 1991 Hate Crimes Statistics Act requires the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program to compile the statistics, but participation by individual agencies is voluntary.

Many agencies do not have sufficient personnel or resources to comply, but the ADL says this year data is missing from more than a dozen of the largest law-enforcement agencies.

So while the numbers show a 7 percent drop in hate crimes from 2011, and in fact the lowest number of incidents in the 21-year history of the report, they do not present the full picture, ADL says.

“This is a significant setback in the progress that has been made over the past decade,” said the group’s national director, Abraham Foxman, in a statement.

“Behind the numbers are individuals and communities deeply affected by these crimes. When an agency does not participate in the HCSA program, it inevitably raises questions about whether that agency is truly ready and willing to respond to hate violence effectively.”

But the FBI is standing by its data as comprehensive. “Agencies that participated in the Hate Crime Statistics Program in 2012 represented over 249 million inhabitants, or 79.3 percent of the nation’s population, and their jurisdictions covered 48 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and the Virgin Islands,” said Stephen G. Fischer, Jr., chief of multimedia productions for the bureau, in an e-mail to The Jewish Week.

The report does not include trend figures showing year-to-year statistics about categories of crime or regions. “We caution users against comparing year-to-year statistical data, due to the infrequent and subjective nature of hate crimes,” Fischer said.

The ADL’s own audit of anti-Semitic crimes, which includes assaults, vandalism and harassment found a total of 927 incidents in 2012, a decline of 14 percent from 2011. (Those numbers include harassment incidents that may not rise to the level of criminal activity.)

“We were surprised to see that those who did report statistics in years past did not include them this year,” Deborah Lauter, ADL’s civil rights director told The Jewish Week. She said that includes Boston and all police departments in New Jersey.

Lauter said 13,222 agencies provided data for the report, down from 14,575 last year.

“Reporting has been declining over the last few years,” said Lauter. “We’re not sure what the reason is, but it needs to be corrected.”

While acknowledging that the Department of Justice can’t force agencies to provide data, Lauter said, “They should encourage it strongly and do a better administrative job of asking the law enforcement agencies around the country to comply.”

Lauter said that while some agencies may simply have missed the deadline for reporting data to the FBI, she was not aware of a previous report being updated with late statistics.

Fischer, the FBI spokesman, told The Jewish Week that while the report itself is not updated with late numbers, “the master file is updated as we continue to receive submissions.”

The FBI statistics, available to the public at FBI.gov, showed that religion-based hate crimes made up around 20 percent of all incidents, while nearly half, 48 percent, were motivated by racism.

California, the most populous state, saw the largest share of hate crimes reported, 1,089, while Wyoming saw the fewest, two. New York agencies reported 741 incidents, including 372 in New York City.

The largest number of incidents (32.6 percent) occurred in or near homes, while only 4.1 percent took place in churches, synagogues, temples, or mosques.

Next year’s report will be more detailed, as the Uniform Crime Reporting Program has been updated to include more categories, such as crimes based on gender identity and crimes against juveniles.