L.A. County Report Shows Increase in Reported Hate Crimes, Highest in Years

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Online press conference includes victim of anti-Asian incident.

Rafu Wire and Staff Reports

The Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations on Oct. 23 released its annual assessment of reported hate crimes and found that the number of such incidents are increasing.

According to the county’s 2019 Hate Crime Report, although reports of hate crimes only increased from 523 incidents in 2018 to 524 in 2019, they have been rising incrementally in the last several years. This is also the largest number reported since 2009, the report stated.

Left: Hong Lee shared her experience as a victim of anti-Asian hostility. Right: Robin Toma, executive director of the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission.

“Now that we’re in extraordinary times — the confluence of the coronavirus pandemic and widespread protests for racial justice and amidst … an election campaign of great consequence — it makes it more important than ever to understand the landscape of hate crime in our county,” said Robin Toma, executive director of the Human Relations Commission, during a broadcast presentation of the report.

Reported hate crimes in Los Angeles County rose 36% between 2013 and 2019. The county saw the most hate crimes reported in 2001, when more than 1,000 incidents were alleged.

From 2018 to 2019, the overall rate of reported hate-motivated violence increased from 61% to 65%, the highest percentage reported since 2007, the report stated.

The largest number of reported hate crimes took place in the Metro Service Planning Area, which stretches from West Hollywood to Boyle Heights, followed by the San Fernando Valley region, according to the report.

After declining for two years in a row, the report stated, allegations of white supremacist crimes in the county were up 38% in 2019.

Racially motivated crimes remained the largest category, making up 49% of all hate crimes.

The county stated African Americans only comprise 9% of county residents but make up 47% of racial hate crime victims. African Americans were also the majority of victims of sexual orientation and anti-transgender crimes.

Latinx residents represented 25% of reported racial hate crime victims and were the most likely racial/ethnic group report violent racially motivated crime.

Anti-immigrant slurs were used in 48% of anti-Latinx attacks. Crimes targeting Asians and Pacific Islanders increased 32%, and crimes described as anti-Middle Eastern rose from 7 to 17, an increase of 143%.

Anti-transgender crimes rose 64% from 25 to 41, the largest number ever reported. The rate of violence was the highest of any victim group at 92%.

“It is troubling that hate crimes in L.A. County have been rising for six years in a row,” Toma said. “We also saw the highest rate of violence in 12 years.”

In 2019, 75% of reported racial hate crimes and 32% of religious hate crimes were violent.

Crimes targeting gay men, lesbians and LGBT organizations comprised 19% of all reported hate crimes, and 79% of these crimes were violent, the report stated.

There were 48 crimes in which alleged perpetrators used specifically anti-immigrant language. This is the second-largest number of crimes reported with such slurs since the report started tracking xenophobic slurs in 2001.

Religious crimes rose 11% and made up 19% of all hate crimes, and 89% of these crimes targeted the Jewish community, an 8% increase.

Hate crimes committed by gang members declined 37%. Anti-African American crimes committed by gang members fell 72% between 2018 and 2019.

According to the report, there is no uniform way in which police and sheriff’s departments define reported hate crimes, which could be due to a variety of reasons. “It is reasonable, therefore, to conclude that the hate crimes documented in this report likely represent only a portion of hate crimes actually committed in 2019.”

The commission has compiled its annual hate report since 1980. The full report can be found at https://hrc.lacounty.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/2019-Hate-Crime-Report.pdf.

In response to the rise in reported hate crimes, the Board of Supervisors directed the commission to develop an initiative to prevent and respond to hate incidents, which resulted in “L.A. vs Hate.”

The initiative has established a marketing campaign to encourage people to unite against and report acts of hate, a government hotline (211) for reporting acts of hate and providing assistance to hate victims, and a network of community agencies that provide hate prevention and rapid response services.

Since debuting in June, the county stated, L.A. vs Hate content has been viewed more than 186 million times and has been shared to a social media audience of more than 7 million. Calls to 211-LA reporting hate acts have nearly doubled, from 60 in June to 118 in September.

More information on the initiative can be found at www.lavshate.org.

Anti-Asian Incidents in 2020

LAPD Deputy Chief Kris Pitcher gave an update on hate crimes that have been tracked in 2020, reporting that there has been a sharp increase in hate crimes reported against people of Asian descent.

“Following the identification of the coronavirus in China earlier this year, hate crimes against Asians increased from seven in the first three quarters of 2019 to 14 during the same time period in 2020,” said Pitcher, who was among the speakers at the meeting who associated anti-Asian hate crimes with widespread blaming of the COVID-19 pandemic on Chinese people.

Comparing the first three quarters of 2019 with the same time period in 2020, Pitcher said anti-Black hate crimes increased from 54 to 57, anti-Hispanic hate crimes from 33 to 39, anti-gay male hate crimes from 47 to 50, and anti-transgender hate crimes from 18 to 21. Anti-Semitic hate crimes decreased from 60 to 40.

“LAPD officers and detectives made 56 hate crime arrests and continue to work very closely with D.A. Jackie Lacey and City Attorney Mike Feuer to aggressively prosecute all individuals arrested for hate crimes in the city of Los Angeles,” Pitcher said, adding, “Hate crimes and hate incidents have been and will continue to be a critical priority of emphasis for the chief of police and every sworn and civilian member of this department.”

Toma introduced Hong Lee, the victim of an incident that occurred in August at El Taurino restaurant in the Pico-Union neighborhood, where a man asked her to eat with him. When she politely declined, explaining that she was married, the man “unleashed a tirade of derogatory racial and sexual obscenities for several minutes,” Toma said.

“I want to publicly thank Ms. Lee for her courage in sharing her story and for joining our L.A. vs. Hate campaign,” Toma continued. “What happened to her was an ugly act of hate-motivated hostility. Even though what happened to her may not be a crime … These are acts of hate that we are asking the public should not accept as normal and then to do something about it.”

Lee, who was born and raised in the U.S., said she is offended when someone tells her to go back to Asia, and in this instance “I was fearful because of his anger and aggression towards me.” She added that it was evident that the restaurant staff “wasn’t aware of how to address the situation.”

Later, she said, “My husband and I debated for a few hours whether or not we should share the video on social media. We heard that there were more than 2,500 acts of hatred against Asian Americans since the pandemic started, and therefore we decided to share the video in order to raise awareness about the ongoing issue.

“After sharing the video on social media, it immediately went viral. There were millions of people that viewed the video within a few days, and I received an enormous amount of support. There were over 6,000 messages that I received from family, friends and the community that were very uplifting and comforting …

“Another victim contacted me and informed me that she was also assaulted by the same man in 2019 while she was with her 10-year-old son in Los Angeles. I then immediately gave her the contact information. for the detective at LAPD that was working on the case. LAPD then stated that they believed there were additional victims and asked them to come forward. Afterwards there were an additional three victims that contacted me directly, and I also directed them to the detective at LAPD. Since then LAPD has forwarded the case to the prosecutor’s office for review …

“We must continue to speak up. If you are a victim or witness an act of hatred, I strongly urge you to speak up. In my case, there were multiple victims. The chances are you may not be the only victim. Call 211 to report the incident, and there will be resources available such as counseling and advocacy. Contact the police if you believe a hate crime occurred. Uniting with one another and speaking up is the only way we will be able to solve hate crimes.”

“I know it is difficult to revisit something that was so traumatic, so I really appreciate that you could share it today,” Toma said. “It said that courage can be contagious, and I know for a fact that you are an example of that.”

District Attorney Lacey commented, “As a Black woman. I am proud of my office’s long history of prosecuting hate crimes. We were the first local prosecutor’s office in the nation to establish a unit dedicated solely to prosecuting hate crimes 25 years ago. As a young district attorney, I was assigned to that unit, where there I had the privilege of trying the first race-based hate crime murder in California.

“Milton Walker, the victim in that case, has always remained with me. He was a homeless African American man who was beaten to death by white supremacists for no other reason than the color of his skin. Today’s victims are gay and transgender and Jewish, Asian, Latino, Middle Eastern and Black. As district attorney I’m particularly alarmed at the 20% increase in hate crimes related to aggravated assault in our county last year.

“Hate crimes affect not just the targets but all of us. It makes all of us feel unsafe. It engenders fear throughout the entire community. And there is no place for hate of any kind in Los Angeles County … We have not yet compiled statistics for 2020 but unfortunately Los Angeles County appears to be seeing the same uptick in hate crime attacks as the rest of our country.

“Earlier this year, we all saw the video of three transgender women attacked by two men in Hollywood. In that case, my hate crimes prosecutor worked closely with the LAPD Robbery Homicide Division to develop additional evidence to support all criminal charges that we filed against the two suspects.”

Pointing to the need to educate future generations, Lacey discussed an program for fifth-graders at the Museum of Tolerance. “Watching children of color from underserved neighborhoods interact with elderly survivors of the Holocaust always tugs at my heart. It continues to give me hope as a prosecutor and as a mother of two Black children. These are the lessons that we need to share.”

Assistant Sheriff Steven Gross explained that in hate crimes, people are targeted “because of their actual or perceived disability, gender, nationality, race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation.” In a hate incident, he said, the motivation is the same but the act, such as hate speech, is non-criminal.

The Sheriff’s Department treats both hate crimes and hate incidents as “the highest priority,” Gross said, adding that meetings are held with community and religious leaders “to make sure we’re addressing all of the issues.”

 

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