IRVINE — Hate crimes jumped 12% last year over 2017, part of a five-year trend of rising hate crimes, according to the OC Human Relations Commission’s annual report released Sept. 26.
“Orange County’s diversity is growing, and the opportunities to enrich and expand our cultural awareness are within our grasp,” Rabbi Richard Steinberg, chair of the commission, said in the introduction to the report. “Over 3.2 million people, per U.S. Census estimates, are living in Orange County, making us the third-largest county in California.”
He cited the following facts about the county’s make-up:
• 31% of Orange County’s population is foreign-born; approximately 51% of these foreign-born are U.S. citizens.
• 46% of the county’s residents speak a language other than English at home. The largest group speaks Spanish – 25.84% of the population.
• There are over 80 faiths practiced in Orange County.
“The OC Human Relations Commission believes that our diversity enhances our county’s social fabric, and we must celebrate the richness and abundance it brings,” wrote Steinberg. “The sad reality is that, in recent years, hate crimes and incidents have increased in our county, targeting individuals or groups because of their race, religion, sexual orientation or other aspect of their being.
“Temple walls continue to be defaced with racial slurs. People are being assaulted because they speak a different language or for the way they look. The worst possible outcome became a reality this past year when a young man was murdered because of who he was.”
Blaze Bernstein, 21, a student who was Jewish and gay, was stabbed to death and his body was found in a shallow grave in a Lake Forest park in January 2018. Samuel Lincoln Woodward is charged in the murder with a hate crime allegation.
“We cannot allow fear, hate and bigotry to divide us,” Steinberg said. “We must listen to each other, communicate respectfully, build bridges of understanding, and support each other through these traumatic events. Let’s send the message that when one of our neighbors is attacked because of who they are, the way they worship, or whom they love, we will denounce it loudly and fiercely stand up against it.
“We believe that ALL people should live free from harassment, discrimination and violence based on race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, disability or any other arbitrary aspect of their being.
“In publishing this annual Hate Crime Report, we are confronted by the fact that hate crime and incidents continue to rise. Yet, according to the Bureau of Justice, only 3.5% of estimated hate crimes get reported through law enforcement to the FBI each year. The time is now for action.
“We must drive out hate from our communities. It is our hope that this report will help initiate important conversations in different spaces about the need for collective impact to support hate victims and, as a community, commit to drive out hate when it comes knocking.”
“The time is now,” said Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett. “Together, we can oust fear and bigotry tied to this hate, and, instead, promote acceptance and embrace what makes each one of us different. The county will continue to invest in the necessary resources to prevent these hate crimes and incidents from occurring.”
Excerpt from Report
Orange County experienced 67 reported hate crimes in 2018, a 12% increase from 2017. In the last five years, hate crimes have steadily been on the rise with the largest jump occurring between 2017 to 2018.
Orange County’s increase in reported hate crime numbers differs from the California Department of Justice’s 2018 Hate Crime Report, which shows that there was a 2.5% decrease of hate crime events. We found that our data included hate crime reports from several educational institutions in the county, which were not reflected in the attorney general’s report.
The most commonly reported hate-based criminal offense was vandalism (21%) followed by simple assaults (13%), criminal threats (3%), and aggravated assaults (3%). These four offenses comprised 40% of all reported hate crimes.
This year there were two significant hate crime events in Orange County: the murder of Blaze Bernstein and terrorist threat of a Jewish center.
Hate crimes were most frequently motivated by the target’s race, ethnicity and/or national origin (42% of the total); hate crime motivated by religious intolerance (34%) and anti-LGBTQ (16%) was the next in frequency.
• In 2018, 13% of the county’s reported hate crimes targeted Jewish people, who are also the most frequent victims. This is more than the number of the past few years and appears to be part of a national trend that also shows an increase of hate crimes targeting people of the Jewish faith.
• Members of the Latino and Middle Eastern communities were the second most targeted groups, being 6% Latino and 6% Middle Eastern of the county’s total hate crime victims. Most of the hate crimes against the Latino and Middle Eastern communities comprised of vandalism.
• African American victims decreased from 4 (2017) to 3 (2018).
• LGBT victims increased from 2 (2017) to 11 (2018).
• Latino victims increased from 3 (2017) to 4 (2018).
• Asian community remained the same 3 (2017) to 3 (2018).
Examples of hate incidents:
• A Muslim woman wearing her hijab was given the middle finger and called a “baby killer and trash.”
• A bi-racial couple hired and gave deposit to a white male to fix their patio door. The person never did the job nor returned the deposit. When the wife asked for the money, the male messaged her, “You and your N-word can f*** off, race traitor.”
• A Christian church’s door was graffitied with “God hates f****.” Below the graffiti was a deposit of fecal matter.
Hate crime and incidents are underreported, often for valid reasons. Because of this, there is high certainty the numbers contained in this report represent only a fraction of the hate crimes and incidents occurring in the county.
According to the U.S. Justice Department National Crime Victim Survey, hate crimes and incidents potentially occur 24-28 times more often than reported. Statistics show that only 3.5% of estimated hate crimes get reported through law enforcement to the FBI each year.
Common reasons for underreporting:
• Victims of hate are often traumatized after the incident and feel that reporting to law enforcement will further victimize and traumatize them.
• People are often fearful the perpetrator will return and harass them further if they make a report.
• People often have little faith the perpetrators will be caught and successfully prosecuted.
• Immigration status, linguistic or cultural barriers, and lack of knowledge about the criminal justice system also contribute to underreporting.
• Hate crimes and especially incidents are often normalized in target communities.
What you can do to prevent hate in your town:
• EDUCATE YOURSELF AND OTHERS
Understand what a hate crime and hate incident is. Share the information with others.
• PROMOTE ACCEPTANCE
Start with yourself. Look at your own biases. Reach out to people outside your own groups. Model respect and promote acceptance and address hate incidents before they escalate to hate crimes. Hold events that promote diversity and acceptance — schools are a great place to hold events.
Report hate crimes and hate incidents to your local law enforcement agency. Hate crime can also be reported at (714) 480-6570.
• SUPPORT THE VICTIMS
Hate crime victims are especially vulnerable. If you’re a victim, report every incident in detail and ask for help. If you learn about a hate crime victim in your community, show support. Let victims know you care. Surround them with comfort and protection.
• SPEAK UP
Apathy will be interpreted as acceptance by the perpetrators, the public, and worse the victims. Hate must be exposed and denounced. Help news organizations achieve balance and depth. Do not debate hate group members in conflict-driven forums. Instead, speak up in ways that draw attention away from hate, toward unity.
• CREATE A NETWORK=
Seek to create a group of diverse people to join forces and work to prevent hate crimes. Include people from churches, schools, law enforcement and community agencies.
• MAKE CITY LEADERS AWARE
Elected officials and other community leaders can be important allies. Make them aware of hate crimes and hate incidents so they can denounce and find ways to make their cities be inclusive.
To see the full report, click here.