FBI’s latest hate crime stats show overall decline, but anti-Jewish incidents rise

By Ellen Futterman, Editor

Although the number of hate crime incidents reported in 2009 is down from the previous year, the number of these incidents targeting Jews is up, according to Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) statistics released earlier this week.

Overall, a total of 6,604 hate crime incidents were reported in 2009, compared to 7,783 in 2008. The number of victims also went down, from 9,691 in 2008 to 8,336 this year. However, among the 1,575 victims targeted in 2009 because of their religious beliefs, 72 percent were Jewish. In 2008, 66 percent were targeted because of an offender’s anti-Jewish bias. After Jews, Muslims were most targeted though far less frequently, accounting for 8 percent of all religiously motivated hate crimes.

“While the pre-eminent religious group targeted are Jews, it could be that Jews feel empowered to report these incidents because of (advocacy agencies such as) the ADL (Anti-Defamation League) compared to other groups, such as Muslims and gays who may be more reticent to do so,” said Karen Aroesty, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League for Missouri and Southern Illinois. “That said, the spike in the number of bias incidents against Jews could have to do with a rise in anti-Semitism in this country due to the economy and Israel.”

A hate crime is described by the FBI as a criminal offense committed against a person, property or group that is motivated by the offender’s bias against race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity/national origin, gender or disability. Aroesty notes that while the number of law enforcement agencies reporting hate crimes has tripled in the past five years, many still do not report these crimes because it isn’t mandatory. Of the 14,422 law enforcement agencies that reported to the FBI in 2009, 7,818 said no hate crimes occurred in their jurisdictions.


“In smaller communities, there is an inclination to say, ‘We love each other here and nothing goes wrong,'” Aroesty said.

According to the recent FBI report, nearly half of all hate crime incidents are committed because of racial bias and the overwhelming number of these cases – 72 percent – is because the victim is black. One in five hate crime incidents – 20 percent – takes place because of a religious bias and 19 percent is because of sexual orientation. Those numbers are just slightly higher — 1 to 2 percent – than reported in 2008.

In Missouri, 124 hate crime incidents were reported in 2009, compared to 99 in 2008. In Illinois, there were 129 incidents reported in 2009, compared to 120 in 2008.

“The reason for the increase may actually be a good thing in that more Missouri and Illinois jurisdictions are reporting these crimes,” said Aroesty. “When you have police officers educated, engaged and writing detailed reports, then perpetrators can be prosecuted for bias-motivated crimes.”

Other key findings from the 2009 FBI report include:

• 4,793 hate crime offenses classified as crimes against persons. Intimidation accounted for 45 percent of crimes against persons, simple assaults for 35.3 percent, and aggravated assaults for 19.1 percent. Other offenses, including nine forcible rapes and eight murders, accounted for the remainder.

• 2,970 hate crime offenses classified as crimes against property; most of these (83 percent) were acts of destruction/damage/vandalism. The remaining 17 percent of crimes against property consisted of robbery, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, arson, and other offenses.

• Of the 6,225 known offenders, 62.4 percent were white, 18.5 percent were black and 7.3 percent were groups made up of individuals of various races.

• The largest percentage (31.3 percent) of hate crime incidents occurred in or near homes. In addition, 17.2 percent took place on highways, roads, alleys, or streets; 11.4 percent happened at schools or colleges; 6.1 percent in parking lots or garages; and 4.3 percent in churches, synagogues, or temples. The remaining 29.7 percent of hate crime incidents took place at other specified locations or unknown locations.