New York, NY, November 23, 2009 … Reacting to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) annual report documenting hate crimes in America, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today called for "a coordinated campaign to prevent, deter, and respond effectively to criminal violence motivated by bigotry and prejudice." The FBI statistics revealed that reported hate crimes are at their highest level since 2001.
Robert G. Sugarman, ADL National Chair, and Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, issued the following statement:
Hate violence in America is a serious national problem that shows little sign of slowing. The annual FBI report on hate crime statistics provides a chance to assess the scope of the problem.
It is disturbing that in 2008, as our country elected its first African-American President, the FBI report tallied 7,783 bias-motivated incidents – the highest total since 2001, including the highest number of crimes directed at Blacks, Jews, and gay men and lesbians since 2001.
While the increase in the number of hate crimes may be partially attributed to improved reporting, the fact that these numbers remain elevated – particularly the significant rise in the number of victims selected on the basis of religion or sexual orientation - should be of concern to every American.
With data comes awareness and accountability – which must lead to action. Too frequently we have seen that failure to address bias crimes can cause an isolated incident to fester and result in widespread community tensions.
We believe the time is right for a coordinated campaign to prevent, deter, and respond effectively to criminal violence motivated by bigotry and prejudice – including training on the provisions of the new Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA), more vigorous enforcement of existing laws, and anti-bias education and anti-bullying programs for schools and communities.
The 2008 FBI hate crime data documented 7,783 hate crimes in 2008 – the highest national total since 2001 and a two percent increase over the 7,624 hate crimes reported in 2007. The report documented more than 1,519 religion-based crimes (also the highest total since 2001), with 1,013 of them – over 66 percent – directed against Jews and Jewish institutions.
More law enforcement agencies than ever (13,690) participated in this year's data collection effort, though more than 4,000 agencies did not report. Of the agencies that did file reports, nearly 85% affirmatively reported zero hate crimes in their jurisdiction.
ADL has led federal and state advocacy efforts for improved responses to hate violence. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have enacted hate crime statutes based on or similar to the ADL model. In 1993, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously upheld a Wisconsin hate crimes statute based on the ADL model. In October 2009, President Obama signed into law the HCPA, which provides for expanded federal involvement in investigating and prosecuting hate violence in America.
The FBI's annual Hate Crime Statistics report has become the single most important national source of information about the problem of hate violence in America and an essential resource for criminologists, policymakers, and analysts.