AJC is calling for a concerted government effort to combat hate crimes. The call to action comes after the FBI issued its latest annual report, which showed a 17 percent increase in hate crimes during 2017, compared to the year before.

“The clarion call to confront head-on this menace to individuals, to communities, indeed to American society, must come from leadership at the highest levels of our government,” said AJC CEO David Harris.

Religious-bias hate crimes comprised 20.6 percent of the total incidents reported to the FBI by law enforcement agencies across the country. In 2017, 58.1 percent of all religious-bias hate crimes targeted Jews. In 2016, the FBI found that 54 percent of crimes motivated by religious bias in the U.S. targeted Jews.

“Clearly, current strategies are not working sufficiently,” said AJC CEO David Harris. “The upward trend in hate crimes is deeply troubling and demands an assertive response at all levels of government in our nation, beginning with Washington.”

AJC has actively supported legislative initiatives aimed at strengthening the capacity of law enforcement to deal with hate crimes. Most recently, AJC supported the bipartisan Protecting Religiously Affiliated Institutions Act, passed by the House and Senate, and signed by President Trump.

Additional measures also are needed for safeguarding houses of worship and other religious institutions, even more so after the massacre of 11 worshipers at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

While the number of law enforcement agencies reporting hate crimes to the FBI was higher in 2017 than in previous years, Harris urged the federal government to make such reporting mandatory. “Voluntary reporting of hate crimes to the FBI is inadequate,” said Harris.

“Comprehensive data is essential to grasping the depth of the problem, to understanding the sources, and there are many, of anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred that infest American society, and to develop effective strategies to combat the scourge,” said Harris. “The message needs to be absolutely clear that hate crimes contradict every American value, and law enforcement needs tools for effective deterrence, monitoring and prosecution. Hate crimes cannot be accepted as a ‘norm’ of American life.”

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