Comparing FBI’s Annual Hate Crimes Assessment with the ADL’s Audit of Antisemitic Incidents

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August 31, 2021

Both ADL and the FBI gather information about bias incidents that target Jews, but there are several differences between the methods. The key difference is that ADL’s reports include information about incidents that do not constitute criminal activity, while the FBI data focuses on actual crimes.  Unlike ADL, the FBI’s report also includes information about all hate crimes, which it categorizes by type of bias, including antisemitic bias.

ADL has been tracking antisemitic incidents since 1979, and we release our findings in our annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents. (In recent years we have also occasionally released some preliminary monthly updates on our HEAT Map.) The FBI has reported information about anti-Jewish hate crimes since 1992 as part of its broader collection of hate crimes. It releases its findings in its annual Hate Crimes Statistics report.

The FBI, which as noted above only includes criminal activity in its report, defines a hate crime as “a committed criminal offense which is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s bias(es) against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, [or] gender identity.” The FBI states that the most common types of hate crimes in its statistics are “destruction/damage/vandalism, intimidation, and simple assault.”

By contrast, ADL includes both criminal and non-criminal anti-Jewish bias incidents in our Audit. For example, if a Jewish person was called a “dirty Jew” by someone passing them on the street, ADL would include that as an antisemitic incident in our Audit. Because this type of incident would usually not be categorized as criminal activity, it would likely not be included in the FBI’s Hate Crimes Statistics report.

Patterns in reporting, both from community members and from law enforcement jurisdictions, may also contribute to differences between ADL and FBI data. It’s possible, for example, that some victims of antisemitic incidents may feel more comfortable reporting their experiences to ADL than they would to law enforcement. ADL also cultivates relationships with Jewish institutions, which may lead them to share more information about minor incidents that they may not report to law enforcement. Likewise, some targets of antisemitic incidents might not be aware of ADL and just report to law enforcement.

Another issue affecting the FBI data is the fact that many law enforcement jurisdictions do not report their hate crimes statistics to the FBI. This is a well-known and long-running problem. ADL maintains an interactive map that lists major U.S. cities that do not report hate crimes data to the FBI or affirmatively report zero hate crimes.

ADL’s Audit and the FBI Hate Crimes Statistics also differ in how they categorize incidents. The FBI uses a complicated set of classifications to describe the various types of hate crimes that they cover. By contrast, ADL uses a simpler approach that focuses on the three broad categories of harassment, vandalism, and assault. It is not easy to precisely match up our two categorization systems.

Below are some specific comparisons between these ADL and FBI statistics in 2020:

  • ADL logged 2,024 criminal and non-criminal antisemitic incidents in 2020. The FBI logged 676 criminal anti-Jewish incidents.
  • ADL and the FBI both reported that incidents targeting Jews decreased in 2020 from the previous year. ADL found the decrease to be minor (four percent) and the FBI found the decrease to be more significant, almost a third (29 percent).
  • ADL logged more cases of antisemitic vandalism than the FBI in 2020. It appears that the FBI reported almost 500 cases of what ADL would categorize as antisemitic vandalism, while ADL reported 751.
  • The FBI logged more cases of anti-Jewish assault than the ADL. The FBI reported 94 victims, while ADL reported 41.
  • The FBI also reported a single fatality in 2020, while ADL is not aware of any fatalities that can be ascribed to anti-Jewish actions which took place in 2020. It is possible that the FBI’s fatality is referring to the death of one of the victims of the December 2019 Chanukkah stabbing in Monsey, NY, who succumbed to his wounds in 2020. ADL counted that fatality in our 2019 Audit as that is when the attack occurred.