A swastika was found painted on Temple Sinai’s carved wooden door in Oakland, Oct. 18, 2020. (Photo/Courtesy Temple Sinai)
A swastika was found painted on Temple Sinai’s carved wooden door in Oakland, Oct. 18, 2020. (Photo/Courtesy Temple Sinai)

FBI report: Hate crimes up in California and nation in 2019

A threat to kill Jews posted online in Concord. Antisemitic and homophobic graffiti at a Burlingame high school. These hate crimes were reported in the Bay Area during 2019, and were among similar incidents included in a report released Monday by the FBI, showing an uptick in both antisemitic and other kinds of hate crimes nationwide.

The report found that anti-Jewish incidents were the second-most common kind of hate crime in 2019, and California was the state with by far the highest number of reported hate crimes.

“Once again, race-based hate crime was the most commonly reported, California led the nation in reported hate crime, and the Jewish community was targeted most among religion-based hate crime incidents,” Seth Brysk, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League for the Central Pacific, told J.

The FBI said 7,314 hate crimes were reported last year to the agency by law enforcement. The report separates incidents into categories by race and ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and other categories; hate crimes against Jews are considered religion-based by the agency.

The highest number of hate crimes, 1,930 nationwide, were directed at African Americans, while the second most targeted group was Jews, targeted in 953 incidents. While racially motivated hate crimes were the most common, religion was the second-most common inciting factor, and 62.6 percent of reported religion-based crimes were directed against Jews and Jewish institutions.

California, the state with the biggest population, also had the highest number of reported hate crimes, at 1,015.

The numbers reflect what the FBI calls “single bias” occurrences (hateful action taken against one group). To compile its report, the FBI collects data from over 15,000 law enforcement agencies that volunteer the information.

But reporting isn’t mandatory, and the fact that only 2,172 agencies actually reported any hate crimes means the report is likely undercounting the total number of such incidents, said Brysk. He added that underreporting of hate crimes “is a widely acknowledged phenomenon,” whether it’s because victims are reluctant to come forward or because the crime should have been classified as a hate crime by local law enforcement but wasn’t.

“Locally, Jewish institutions or individuals have declined to report the occurrence of a hate crime for a variety of reasons,” he said. “For example, we encountered victims fearful of retribution or copycat occurrences, others reported being inured by repeat offenses, some believed law enforcement resources should be devoted to a ‘more deserving’ targeted community, or did not understand that their episode constituted a hate crime worth reporting.”

The vast majority of hate crimes against people were classified as intimidation or assault, but 51 murders were associated with hate crimes in 2019. Most crimes against property were vandalism or destruction, similar to the recent incident in Oakland where a swastika was painted on a synagogue door.

In 2019, Los Angeles and San Francisco reported more hate crimes than any other city in California. Los Angeles had more in absolute numbers at 284, commensurate with its larger population, while San Francisco reported 64. The FBI report did not specify how many were anti-Jewish.

Maya Mirsky
Maya Mirsky

Maya Mirsky is a J. Staff Writer based in Oakland.