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Anti-Semitism in the United States:
Federal Initiatives in the Fight Against Hate Crimes


Anti-Semitism in the U.S.: Table of Contents | Anti-Semitic Propensities | Statistics


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The Federal Government has an essential leadership role in confronting criminal activity motivated by prejudice and in promoting prejudice-reduction initiatives for schools and the community. The following elements are basic to that leadership role.

- The Hate Crime Statistics Act
- Five Years of HCSA Data: Progress and Promise
- The Hate Crimes Sentencing Enhancement Act
- The Church Arson Prevention Act
- The Violence Against Women Act
- Bigotry in the Armed Forces
- The Department of Education: Promoting Anti-Bias' Programs

The Hate Crime Statistics Act (HCSA - Public Law 102-275)

Enacted in 1990, the HCSA requires the Justice Department to acquire data on crimes that "manifest prejudice based on race, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity" from law enforcement agencies across the country and to publish an annual summary of the findings. In the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (Public Law 103-322), Congress expanded coverage of the HCSA to require FBI reporting on crimes based on disability.

As of September 1996, the FBI had held 76 hate crime training conferences across the country, training nearly 4,400 law enforcement personnel from 1,200 state and local agencies. ADL and other groups with expertise in analyzing and responding to hate violence have participated in a number of these training seminars on how to identify, report, and respond to hate crimes.

Five Years of HCSA Data: Progress and Promise

Unlike the League's Audit, which includes noncriminal incidents of harassment and intimidation, the data collected under the HCSA includes only criminal activity. The FBI documented a total of 4,558 hate crimes in 1991, reported from 2,771 police departments in 32 states. The Bureau's 1992 data documented 7,442 hate crime incidents reported from more than twice as many agencies, 6,181-representing 42 states and the District of Columbia. For 1993, the FBI reported 7,587 hate crimes from 6,865 agencies in 47 states and DC. The FBI's 1994 statistics documented 5,932 hate crimes, reported by 7,356 law enforcement agencies from 43 states and DC.

The FBI's 1995 HCSA report documented 7,947 crimes reported by 9,584 agencies from 45 states and DC. About 61 percent of the reported hate crimes were race-based, with 16 percent committed against individuals on the basis of their religion, 10 percent on the basis of ethnicity, and 13 percent against Gay men and Lesbians. The 1,058 crimes against Jews and Jewish institutions comprised more than 13 percent of the total--and 83 percent of the reported hate crimes based on religion. Approximately 38 percent of the reported crimes were anti-Black, 15 percent of the crimes were anti-white, 4.5 percent of the crimes were anti-Asian, and 6.5 percent anti-Hispanic.

The Hate Crimes Sentencing Enhancement Act

This measure, enacted into law as Section 280003 of the 1994 crime bill, directed the United States Sentencing Commission to provide a sentencing enhancement of "not less than three offense levels for offenses that the finder of fact at trial determines beyond a reasonable doubt are hate crimes." The provision defined a hate crime as "a crime in which the defendant intentionally selects a victim, or in the case of a property crime, the property that is the object of the crime, because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation of any person." In May 1995, the United States Sentencing Commission announced its implementation of a three-level increase in its sentencing guidelines for hate crimes.

The Church Arson Prevention Act (Public Law 104-155)

According to Justice Department officials, from January 1, 1995, to January 7, 1997, DOJ opened 328 investigations of suspicious fires, bombings and attempted bombings; 143 suspects have been arrested in connection with 107 fires, with 48 convictions in connection with fires at 43 houses of worship. One hundred and thirty-eight of the 328 investigated attacks have been directed against houses of worship that are predominately African-American institutions. One hundred and forty-three persons have been arrested for these crimes, including 24 African-Americans; 62 of the alleged perpetrators have been juveniles.

The Church Arson Prevention Act, unanimously enacted into law in duly 1996, broadened existing Federal criminal jurisdiction and facilitated criminal prosecutions for attacks against houses of worship. It increased penalties for these crimes, established a loan guarantee recovery fund for rebuilding, and authorized additional investigatory personnel for the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms and the FBI, as well as Justice Department prosecutors, and personnel from the Justice Department's Community Relations Service to "investigate, prevent and respond" to these incidents. Recognizing that data collection efforts complement criminal prosecutions of hate crime offenders, Congress included a continuing mandate for the HCSA.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

Enacted as Title IV of the 1994 crime bill, VAWA declares that "All persons within the United States shall have the right to be free from crimes of violence motivated by gender." The law provides authority for domestic violence and rape crisis centers and for education and training programs for law enforcement and prosecutors. Importantly, VAWA provides for victims of gender-based crimes to bring a civil suit, in either Federal or state court, for money damages or injunctive relief.

Bigotry in the Armed Forces

The murder of two African-Americans in Fayetteville, North Carolina, in December 1995, allegedly by two white soldiers stationed at nearby Fort Bragg who were involved in neo-Nazi skinhead activities, highlights the danger posed by even small numbers of extremists in the military. In the wake of these murders, the Army established a Task Force on Extremist Activities, which conducted extensive interviews and surveys of thousands of soldiers and released its report in March 1996.

The report found minimal evidence of extremist activity in the Army. Yet, even if organized hate group members in the military are few in number (as they are in general society), the access they have to weapons and explosives, and the training they receive, make them a potentially significant threat to society. In addition, the presence of haters and extremists in the military poses a threat to morale and good order in the ranks.

The response of the Armed Forces to hate group organizing was the subject of important hearings any before the House National Security Committee on June 25, 1996. Representatives from the Pentagon and the three service branches described efforts they are making to address this issue. In a significant follow-up, Congress included a requirement in the FY 1997 Defense Department Authorization bill that each service branch conduct "ongoing programs for human relations training for all members of the Armed Forces" and required the Department of Defense to conduct an annual survey to measure the state of racial, ethnic and gender discrimination-as well as the extent of hate group activity-and to prepare a report to Congress.

The Department of Education: Promoting Anti-Bias' Programs

In 1992, for the first time, Congress incorporated anti-prejudice initiatives into the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the principal Federal funding mechanism for the public schools. Title IV of the Act, Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities, also included a hate crimes prevention initiative-promoting curriculum development and "professional training and development for teachers and administrators on the cause, effects and resolutions of hate crimes or hate-based conflicts."

In a significant step forward in efforts to institutionalize prejudice reduction as a component of violence prevention programming, in July 1996, the Department of Education announced the availability of up to $2 million in new grants to fund the development and implementation of "innovative, effective strategies for preventing and reducing the incidence of crimes and conflicts motivated by hate in localities directly affected by hate crimes."


Source: Anti-Defamation League

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