Over Half of Religious Bias Crimes Target Jews, FBI Says in New Report

Almost 60 percent of hate crimes based on religious bias were motivated by anti-Semitism, the FBI reported on Tuesday as part of its annual Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program.

In 2018, the year covered by the FBI's most recent report, 57.8 percent of religious bias offenses were categorized as anti-Jewish. A total of 896 anti-Jewish offenses were reported to local and federal law enforcement agencies, forming a data set that is ultimately collected and released by the bureau.

Although thousands of agencies participate in the hate crimes reporting program, such participation is voluntary at the local level, meaning that the data underestimate the larger number of such crimes committed in smaller jurisdictions.

The number of anti-Jewish offenses dropped off in 2018 from the previous year, when there were 976. But the share of offenses directed against Jews or those perceived as Jewish remained consistent. About 58 percent of religious bias crimes in 2017 had an anti-Semitic motivation, roughly the same share as in 2018.

In 2016, 834 offenses were classified as anti-Jewish and constituted about 54 percent of all religious bias offenses included in the FBI's UCR statistics.

"It is unacceptable that Jews and Jewish institutions continue to be at the center of religion-based hate crime attacks," Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a press release. "We need to take concrete action to address and combat this significant problem."

In New York, two recent anti-Semitic crimes have generated fresh outrage. The New York Police Department's Hate Crimes Task Force says it is investigating a picture circulating on social media that depicts a subway stop defaced with swastikas and pro-Hitler graffiti. In another incident that was apparently anti-Semitic, a security camera captured footage of a man attempting to shatter the windows at a Jewish girls' school in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

HCTF is investigating the pictured anti-Semitic criminal mischief on the 1 line of NYC Transit at W103st. Any information, call Crimestoppers 800-577-TIPS @NYPDTips pic.twitter.com/ZzulSi4YMV

— NYPD Hate Crimes (@NYPDHateCrimes) November 11, 2019

The number of religious bias crimes, like the number of bias crimes in general, has risen sharply in recent years. In 2015, 6,837 bias offenses were recorded by the FBI, 1,354 of which were motivated by religion. By 2018, the overall number surged to 8,327, with 1,550 arising from religious bias.

Greenblatt on Tuesday called on Congress to advance the National Opposition to Hate, Assault and Threats to Equality Act. The NO HATE bill, introduced in the House by Republican Representative Pete Olson and Democratic Representative Don Beyer, would facilitate hate crime data collection at local law enforcement agencies, support state-run hate crime hotlines and implement victim-centered reforms to sentencing rules.

"We strongly urge Congress to immediately pass the...NO HATE Act," Greenblatt said. "By improving hate crime training, prevention, best practices and data collection, we can stem hate crimes nationwide."

The largest category of bias offenses collected by the FBI involved crimes targeting race, ethnicity or ancestry. The UCR report tallied nearly 5,000 of these offenses in 2018, a plurality of which targeted black people. There were just over 1,400 bias offenses targeting sexual orientation in the report, a majority of which targeted gay men.

FBI Hate Crimes
An Orthodox Jewish man walks through the New York neighborhood of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, on February 25. In an apparently anti-Semitic incident, a security camera recently captured footage of a man attempting to shatter the windows at a Jewish girls’ school in the area. Getty/Spencer Platt