ADL Expresses “Tempered Optimism” Over Lower FBI Hate Crime Figures

New York, NY, December 9, 2014 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today welcomed publication of the FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics Act (HCSA) report, which documented the lowest hate crimes since the enactment of the record-keeping law in 1991. The FBI HCSA report is the most comprehensive national snapshot of hate crimes in America.

The 2013 report is the first to include data on hate crimes directed against individuals on the basis of gender and gender identity, as well as hate crimes committed by and against juveniles, as mandated by the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA) of 2009.

Barry Curtiss-Lusher, ADL National Chair, and Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director issued the following statement:

The FBI’s 2013 numbers on hate crimes in America give us reasons to be cautiously optimistic that on the issue of hate crimes, our nation is moving in the right direction.  There are some encouraging trends, but there is also clearly much work left to be done.

The good news is that the total number of hate crime incidents decreased to the lowest numbers since the bureau’s first year of reporting. Crimes directed against individuals because of race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, and disability all decreased, and that decrease is even more striking because the largest number of police agencies ever provided data for the report. In addition, the 2013 report includes, for the first time, data on crimes directed against individuals and institutions on the basis of gender and gender identity, as well as hate crimes committed by and against juveniles. There is an understandable learning curve for law enforcement officials for the new categories -- accuracy and public trust will grow after more time and training.

Our optimism is tempered because there were still 6,000 documented hate crimes – one about every 90 minutes of every day.  We are also troubled by the fact that, again this year, the highest number of religion based crimes were perpetrated against Jews and Jewish institutions, representing over 60 percent of the religion-based crimes.

Even with record high participation, underreporting remains a problem. Thousands of police departments did not report data to the FBI, and of those that did, only about 12 percent reported one or more hate crimes to the Bureau. Over 80 cities with over 100,000 in population either did not participate in the reporting program, or affirmatively reported zero hate crimes to the FBI – which would be welcome news, but seems unlikely.

We are heartened by the Obama Administration’s demonstrated commitment to enforcing the HCPA, improving hate crime data reporting, and modeling hate crime prevention best practices.

Over the past three decades, ADL has conducted an annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, and has drafted model hate crime statutes for state legislatures.  As a result, 45 states, the District of Columbia, and the federal government have enacted hate crimes laws based on or similar to the League’s model statute.

ADL will continue to lead national and state advocacy, training, and legal efforts to improve the response to hate violence by working with coalition allies and federal and state officials to spark necessary improvements in reporting and response to this national problem.