Hate crimes remain at elevated levels in Los Angeles County, based on a recently released report from the County Commission on Human Relations.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas expressed concern over the 2016 Hate Crime Report, which documented 482 hate crime victims. The number is only one fewer than in 2015, when hate crimes surged 24 percent over the year before, and represented the highest total since 2011.
“The report reminds us that criminal activity motivated by bias and hate have not abated in the last year,” Board Chairman Ridley-Thomas said. “The crimes described in this report are pernicious and despicable actions intended to strip away each victim’s sense of dignity, safety and belonging.”
“The report shows targeted populations span the breadth and diversity of our county, proving that hate crimes affect not only communities of color, LGBT communities, or communities of faith,” he added. “In truth, anyone can be victimized.”
The Commission’s executive director, Robin Toma, said, “We are extremely concerned that reported hate crimes remained at an elevated level in 2016, and major cities across the country, including the city of Los Angeles, have already reported increases in hate crime during the first half of 2017.”
Significant findings include:
For the first time in many years, gay men, lesbians and LGBT organizations comprise the group most frequently targeted for hate crime reported in the county, surpassing anti-African American hate crimes. There were 118 crimes based on sexual orientation in 2016, comprising nearly one-quarter of all hate crimes, and the rate of violence was high – 81 percent – including the murder of a gay man by his own father. Of transgender hate crimes, 97 percent were of a violent nature, the highest of any major victim group.
- Hate crimes in which there was evidence of white supremacist ideology grew 67 percent, from 63 to 105, mostly acts of vandalism in which swastikas or other hate symbols were used. This constituted 22 percent of all hate crimes reported in 2016, up from 13 percent in the previous year.
- Anti-black hate crimes declined 19 percent from 139 to 112, partly due to a reduction in hate crimes by Latino gang members that targeted African Americans. Nonetheless, reported hate crimes in the county disproportionately targeted African Americans, who represent only about 9 percent of county residents but represented almost half of victims of racial hate crimes.
- Anti-Latino crimes increased slightly in 2016, from 61 to 62, three quarters of which were violent.
- Anti-white crimes jumped from 11 to 27, a 145-percent rise. White comprised 11 percent of racial hate crime victims, but represent about 27 percent of the county population.
- There were 101 religious hate crimes in 2016, with two-thirds targeting the Jewish community.
- During the post-2016 presidential election period, hate crimes increased 9 percent, from 75 to 82. It is important to note that those 75 crimes in 2015 represented a sharp 47 percent rise from the previous year, due in part to about a dozen anti-Muslim/Middle Eastern crimes following terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino.
The Commission has produced an annual Hate Crime Report since 1980, making it one of the longest running reports of its kind in the nation. The majority of the data is derived from law enforcement agencies. Given the well-documented problem of underreporting, however, the Commission also collects information from school districts and universities, community-based organizations and directly from victims.
“The fact that white supremacist crimes grew 67 percent is alarming, particularly in the aftermath of the ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville,” Commission President Isabelle Gunning said. “It seems that organized hate groups everywhere are feeling emboldened and increasingly visible.”
Board Chairman Ridley-Thomas called for more unity and inclusiveness, as well as taking action to address hate crimes. “We are all collectively responsible for identifying and reporting threats that could lead to hate crimes, as well as making concerted efforts to provide welcoming and safe environments for all County residents,” he said.