Jan 9, 2024 - News

Scoop: Antisemitic hate crimes hit record high in Boston

Data: FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program; Boston Police Department, compiled by California State University, San Bernardino; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program; Boston Police Department, compiled by California State University, San Bernardino; Chart: Axios Visuals

Hate crimes are on the rise in Boston, with reports of antisemitic offenses reaching a record high in federal data, new preliminary research shows.

Why it matters: Hate crimes destroy communities, causing people to live in fear over aspects of their identity they can't control, experts say.

Driving the news: Boston reported 23 antisemitic crimes through Dec. 22, 2023 — the highest number since the FBI started collecting hate crime statistics in 1991, per an Axios review of a preliminary report by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.

  • Boston saw a spike of antisemitic crimes after the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, per the report.
  • Hate crimes against Muslims, Arabs and Palestinians also increased in the same time frame.

Plus: Boston reported an estimated 177 hate crimes through Dec. 22, the highest since 2001 when Boston reported a national record of 212 hate crimes.

The big picture: The 10 largest U.S. cities saw major surges in hate crimes in 2023, in part due to a record surge in antisemitic cases, Axios' Russell Contreras reported.

  • Cities reported the highest levels of anti-Muslim crimes since at least the mid-2010s, says Brian Levin, the criminology professor behind the research.

Zoom in: Boston did not see a record increase in total hate crimes, possibly because of the volume of historical data on the city's hate crimes.

  • The Boston Police Department was the first to track hate crimes through a specialized unit created in 1978 and the city has been a model for reporting and investigating hate crimes, Levin says.

Reality check: The United States has significant underreporting of hate crimes, meaning the number of offenses may have been higher in Boston.

Yes, but: The data does not show the hate crimes tracked by university police or in neighboring cities across Greater Boston, like at Harvard University or in Cambridge post-Oct. 7.

Context: Antisemitic hate crimes increased in Boston after Hamas' attack on Israel on Oct. 7, but the uptick is also part of the yearslong trend of rising white nationalism, says Jack McDevitt, a criminal justice professor at Northeastern University.

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