Jacksonville Jewish, LGBTQ+, FBI leaders react to spike in hate crime reports

Revised report from FBI documenting 2021 cases shows 12% increase in hate crime reports across nation

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Hate crimes reported in America are showing an alarming rise again, according to a revised report from the FBI documenting 2021 cases.

The report shows a 12% increase in hate crime reports across the nation. Those hate crime reports include 18 murders.

Agents point out that the data isn’t complete, as not all police departments and sheriff’s offices contributed. In Florida, the latest data report shows 116 reports of hate crimes.

RELATED: FBI: Hate crimes showed another alarming rise in 2021

From projections on downtown Jacksonville buildings and the stadium to signs on interstates and flyers in yards, North Florida has seen signs of hatred.

News4JAX on Tuesday spoke with Jacksonville Jewish Federation CEO Mariam Feist and asked her if she worries that messages like those are going to amplify the risk of crimes against the Jewish community.

“You always worry about that — less concerned about the actual people in these groups, as compared to someone who feels that what their messages that they’re portraying are a call to action,” Feist said.

Feist said she’s disappointed but not surprised to see the latest FBI report shows an increase in hate crimes.

“All reports have shown that they’re getting worse and especially in different areas, so Florida is a hotspot. Northeast Florida is a hotspot. And the rhetoric is just increasing,” Feist said.

According to the latest report listing 2021 hate crime cases, most of the victims — 64.5% — were targeted due to their race, ethnicity, or ancestry; another 16% were targeted over their sexual orientation; and 14% of cases involved religious bias.

VIEW: FBI’s updated hate crimes statistics | 2021 Florida hate crimes report

In response, the Jewish Federation is increasing education about tolerance, sparking communication with community leaders and residents, and increasing security, including hiring a former FBI agent as a security director for the area.

“We’re seeing our trans community really under attack. I mean, it’s our trans loved ones are the group that in particular in our group are seeing the worst of the increase in violence,” said Cindy Nobles, president of the Jacksonville-based LGBTQ+ advocacy group PFLAG.

She says members are very concerned, citing attacks and even murders over the years.

“I mean, the worst thing that we could possibly do is ask our LGBTQ+ loved ones to go back into the closet and hide who they are. That’s not a solution to anything. So all we can say right now is, if you are questioning someplace that you’re going, reach out to others in the community, make sure you’re going to a safe place,” Nobles said.

FBI Jacksonville Special Agent In Charge Sherri Onks sent News4JAX this statement about hate crimes:

“Hate crimes are not only an attack on the victim; they are meant to threaten and intimidate an entire community. Unfortunately, these heinous crimes often go unreported because victims fear retaliation. FBI Jacksonville has been working to assure vulnerable communities across North Florida that we will stop at nothing to seek justice when victims come forward, and we renew that commitment today. No individual should live in fear because of someone’s intolerance and hatred.”

FBI agents say, if you see something suspicious, say something, and report it to authorities. To report a hate crime, call 1-800-CALL-FBI or visit tips.fbi.gov.

About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.