Jewish orgs share concern over ‘inaccurate’ FBI hate crime data

There was a 22% decrease in the number of reporting law enforcement agencies, the lowest number of agencies in two decades, according to JFNA.

An FBI investigator  (photo credit: REUTERS)
An FBI investigator
(photo credit: REUTERS)

WASHINGTON – Several major Jewish organizations pushed back on recent FBI hate crimes data which showed a significant decline in religious-based hate crimes saying that the annual report is far from being accurate. The groups also called on the Federal Bureau of Investigation to amend the numbers.

The recent report included 1,013 religious-based hate crimes in 2021, down from 1,244 in 2020. It also showed that antisemitic hate crimes declined significantly, with 324 incidents in 2021 compared to 683 in 2020.

“This amounts to a 22% decrease in the number of reporting agencies, the lowest number of agencies in two decades.”

JFNA

According to the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), the report was based on data received from just 11,883 of 18,812 law enforcement agencies in the country in 2021. “This amounts to a 22% decrease in the number of reporting agencies, the lowest number of agencies in two decades,” the organization said in a statement to The Jerusalem Post.

“In addition to the decline in the number of reporting agencies, some of the largest cities in the country, including New York and Los Angeles, did not participate, nor did nearly the entire state of Florida or most of California,” JFNA noted. “This lack of data renders it challenging to draw conclusions about year-over-year national numbers.”

Even with major agencies missing, the data reported 7,262 total hate crime incidents, which amounts to the third-highest number in a decade, JFNA noted. Reported anti-Jewish hate crimes still comprised the largest percentage of all religious-based hate crimes in 2021.

 The Federal Bureau of Investigation seal is seen at FBI headquarters before a news conference by FBI Director Christopher Wray on the U.S Justice Department's inspector general's report regarding the actions of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the 2016 US presidential election in Washington, (credit: REUTERS/YURI GRIPAS) The Federal Bureau of Investigation seal is seen at FBI headquarters before a news conference by FBI Director Christopher Wray on the U.S Justice Department's inspector general's report regarding the actions of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the 2016 US presidential election in Washington, (credit: REUTERS/YURI GRIPAS)

"Underreporting in FBI data is a significant problem"

Karen Paikin Barall, AVP of Public Affairs and Executive Director of Advocacy Corp at JFNA, said that “the underreporting in the FBI data is a significant problem.”

“Without good data, governments and law enforcement cannot accurately do their jobs, including prioritizing limited resources. Despite the underreporting, it's easy to extrapolate from this report what every Jewish community has been feeling, which is that antisemitic incidents are increasingly pervasive in our lives.”

American Jewish Committee CEO Ted Deutch expressed “deep concern” regarding what he called the dearth of data in the report. “[It] provides a woefully inadequate assessment of the reality and extent of hate crimes targeting Jews in the United States,” he said.

“The FBI report on hate crimes is among the most anticipated federal government documents. But its shortcomings undermine the gravity of the problem of hate in the United States.”

Ted Deutch

“The FBI report on hate crimes is among the most anticipated federal government documents. But its shortcomings undermine the gravity of the problem of hate in the United States,” said Deutch.

“We appreciate the FBI’s efforts collecting and reporting on hate crimes, and for the work the bureau does every day to keep Americans safe,” Deutch said. “We look forward to working with the FBI and law enforcement agencies across the United States to secure reliable hate crimes data in the future.”

The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law called on the FBI “to correct an important new report that understates antiesmitic hate crimes.”

“The FBI released hate crime data which indicates, erroneously, that hate crimes against Jews decreased last year,” the center said in a statement. “The reason for this error appears to be that critical law enforcement agencies’ data was not included.”

According to Brandeis Center chairman Kenneth Marcus, "at a time of record antisemitic hate crimes, it is appalling that the FBI's data-gathering has been so badly botched.”

“The 2021 hate crimes data is essentially useless,” said Marcus. “The problem is so bad that record-high levels of antisemitism appear in the official data as actual declines, because major jurisdictions didn’t formally report it. This massive failure has undermined the purposes of hate crime data precisely when we most need the data. If the FBI doesn't quickly correct this problem, congressional committees will need to ask some serious questions."