Florida Community Moves to Define anti-Semitism as Hate Crime

Seeking to bolster hate crime investigation, the ordinance was unanimously passed in the Miami-area village, the first of its kind for a municipality

Vandalized Jewish headstones in a suburb of St Louis, Missouri, U.S. February 21, 2017.
Tom Gannam / Reuters

A Miami-area village council passed an ordinance that helps police define and investigate anti-Semitic acts as hate crimes.

The Bal Harbour Village Council unanimously passed the ordinance, the first of its kind for a municipality, the Miami Herald reported.

The ordinance was passed by the five-member council on Dec. 13 and took effect immediately.

The ordinance allows police officers to consider whether a crime had an anti-Semitic motivation, to investigate it as a violation of the ordinance in addition to state and federal hate crimes laws.

Mayor Gabriel Groisman, who worked to pass the measure, told the Miami Herald that the since there is no codified definition of anti-Semitism, police departments throughout the United States have a hard time identifying and investigating hate crimes.

The village’s new ordinance points to the State Department’s 2010 definition of anti-Semitism but gives law enforcement discretion in determining whether to call a crime a hate incident.

While there have not been any recent anti-Semitic acts in Bal Harbour, home to under 3,000 residents, there have been several in neighboring municipalities. The village is home to a large number of Jewish families.

In December, 2015, the village became the first major municipality to pass an ordinance against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel. More than 20 U.S. states have passed such legislation.