The Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations released its annual LA County Hate Crime Report last month on December 7. As the new year begins, the high level of hate crimes portrayed in the report brings heavy concern about the state of hate in the City of Angels.
The report shows the number of hate crimes in LA County has reached the highest number in the last 19 years. Reported hate crimes in LA County grew 23% from 641 in 2020 to 786 in 2021. This is the highest number recorded since 2002.
For Latino/as as targets, the report revealed that there was a decline in reported hate crime cases from 38 in 2020 to 25 in 2021. However, hate crime violence against Mexicans as a group jumped from 66 in 2020 to 91 in 2021; That 38 percent increase made Mexicans the third most targeted group, behind victims who were Black or LGBTQ+, groups who came in first and second respectively.
CALO NEWS reached out to Marshall Wong, who has been on staff at the Commission since 1999.
Wong coordinates anti-hate crime programs and is the principal author of the agency’s annual Hate Crime Report. Wong told CALÓ NEWS that the report is a year-round project which is usually published in the fall of each year, but because of the high number of hate crime cases that they had to review this year, the report took longer than usual.
“We review each crime report twice, with two different sets of eyes, to make sure that it meets the legal criteria to be classified as a hate crime,“ Wong said. “We have to check for duplicates because sometimes we will get the same crime reported to us by two different agencies, so we are very careful [not] to double count reports.”
Capri Maddox, the Executive Director of the Los Angeles Civil + Human Rights and Equity Department, said that the LA Civil Right Department relies a lot on the LA County Hate Crime Report when it comes to creating and overseeing citywide initiatives such as their LA For All campaign.
LA for All is a creative-led campaign to stand against hate and encourage people to speak against hate crimes and hate incidents. People are able to see this campaign in 18 languages on LA City parks, libraries, street banners, bus shelters, LA Metro buses and county airports.
“In 2021, we launched the LA for All campaign and it became the largest anti-hate public service announcement campaign in the city’s history,” Maddox told CALÓ NEWS. “This campaign is colorful artwork but it also has hate reporting options and inclusive messages like ‘LA is our Home’, ‘We All Belong’ or ‘Protect Our Elders.’ These messages hit all the ways people are often other-ed.”
HATE CRIMES VS INCIDENTS
The United States Department of Justice defines hate crimes as “motivated by bias against race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability.” Hate crimes differ from bias or hate incidents because incidents do not involve violence, threats, or property damage.
The United States Department of Justice also points out that, under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, alleged perpetrators cannot be prosecuted simply for their beliefs. “However, the First Amendment does not protect against committing a crime, just because the conduct is rooted in philosophical beliefs,” according to the website. Many of these beliefs may be offensive, stereotypical, or even untrue, but it is not a crime to express them, reports the Department of Justice.
Additionally, the LA County Hate Crime Report states that hate speech is a criminal offense when the perpetrator has threatened violence with spoken or written words. “Frequently, derogatory words or epithets are directed against a member of a protected class, but no violence is threatened. Such hate incidents are important indicators of inter-group tensions, “ states the report. “They are not, however, criminal offenses. Such language is protected by free speech rights set forth in the California and U.S. constitutions.”
FINDINGS AND STATISTICS
The report showed that racist offenses constituted 58% of all hate crimes in 2021 and racial crimes against the Black, Hispanic, Asian and Middle Eastern communities all increased.
“It’s concerning that every year we break last year’s records,” Maddox said.
Black people only constitute 9% of LA County residents, yet they were the most frequent target of hate crime attacks. They comprised 46% of racial crime victims and anti-Black crimes jumped 30% from 169 in 2020 to 219 in 2022. The Latino community was also a prime target in 2021. They were the second-largest group of victims.
Latinos comprised 25% of racial victims, according to the report. Anti-Latino crimes rose 10% from 106 in 2020 to 117 in 2021. Latinos were also the group most likely to be targets of violent, racially motivated crime. In 78% of these crimes, anti-Mexican slurs were used.
“Many of these attacks have been against our most vulnerable populations: our elders, street vendors, and transgender women of color. This is alarming and unacceptable. These types of crimes have been on the rise for many years and we have to stand up to any rising type of hate,” Maddox said.
“The year 2021 began with a violent assault on the U.S. Capitol, led in part by white nationalist groups,” Robin Toma, the commission’s executive director, said in a statement. “The shocking revolt was evidence of not only growing political polarization but a country deeply divided along lines of race, religion, sexual orientation, and gender. Against this backdrop, hate crimes across the nation, including L.A. County, skyrocketed in 2021.”
In 2001, the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations began tracking crimes in which anti-immigrant slurs like ‘wetback” or “go back to your country” were used. In 2021, these types of crimes skyrocketed 48%, from 56 to 83, the largest number since 2001. Of the 83, 68% targeted Latinos and of those, 62% were specifically anti-Mexican. “It is important to note that other racial crimes might also have been motivated by anti-immigrant sentiment, but the suspects did not use specific xenophobic language. The number of specific anti-immigrant slurs is only one measure of racist nationalism,” stated the report.
Another of the report’s significant findings was that sexual orientation hate crimes rose in 2021 for the second year in a row. They increased by 15% from 122 in 2020 to 140 in 2021. The great majority (85%) of sexual orientation crimes targeted gay men, a 14% increase from 105 to 120.
After declining for two years in a row, crimes targeting lesbians increased by 25% from 12 to 15. They comprised 11% of all sexual orientation crimes.
The LA County Hate Crime Report is released at the end of every year. The Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations has produced an annual report since 1980. “The Commission collects reports from every law enforcement agency in Los Angeles County, as well as from some colleges, school districts, and colleges community-based organizations, and directly from victims,” as stated in the report.
This year’s 52-page report listed a long list of reporting agencies. Some of the law enforcement agencies included the Alhambra Police Department, Beverly Hills Police Department, California Highway Patrol, LA County Sheriff’s Department, and Los Angeles Police, among others. Schools like California State University, Northridge, Citrus College, University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Southern California were also listed as reporting agencies.
Wong said the commission receives over half of the hate crime reports from LAPD and about a quarter from the LA Sheriff’s Department. “None of the agencies are legally required to provide that information to us. It took a lot of years to build relationships with these reporting agencies and get them to voluntarily provide us with those reports,” Wong said.
It is no secret that hate crime data does not capture the true scope of hate-related violence in the country. The LA County Hate Crime Report is very transparent about this reality. One example of suspected underreporting can be seen in Anti-Latino crimes, which according to the report rose 10% from 106 in 2020 to 117 in 2021.
The report stated that because Latinos make up about half of L.A. County residents, this is a surprisingly low percentage. Major cities like Los Angeles, have documented significant declines in the number of crimes reported by Latino victims since the start of former president Donald Trump’s presidency, according to the report. “It is possible that growing numbers of Latino/a victims are increasingly reluctant to contact law enforcement because they fear detection by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” stated the report.
Incomplete hate crime data is not exclusive to LA county or California, it is a national problem.
A recent example of it is the FBI annual report on hate crime in America, which was published last month on December 12. The FBI reported a total of 7,262 hate crimes in 2021, yet this is an unrealistic and incomplete picture of the total hate crimes that occurred in the U.S.
The TIME magazine reported that nearly 7,000 of the country’s more than 18,000 law-enforcement agencies, including LAPD, failed to submit any hate crime data to the federal report. “Only 15 of the 750 agencies in the state of California participated.
“The Department of Justice put into place a new system for how data was to be submitted and many departments were unaccustomed to that. They were not withholding information; they simply did not have the means to be able to train people quickly enough to be able to use the new submission system,” Wong said. “But even prior to this new system being in place, when the Department of Justice would put out a request for hate crime data, 85% of the law enforcement agencies throughout the country would not respond to the request or they would say they did not have any hate crimes to report.”
For Wong, although it is not always easy to look over police reports that show the pain and trauma that people experience when it comes to hate crimes, it is a job worth doing. “We are trying to paint the clearest pictures of what hate crimes look like in our backyard and it makes me happy to see there’s a lot more organizations who are getting involved in efforts to combat and prevent hate,” Wong said. “It doesn’t feel like we are the only ones out there, alone trying to sound the alarm. That is gratifying.”
“Unfortunately, in the last few years, it’s been abundantly clear that hate is not going anywhere but neither are we,” Maddox said. ”We will not allow hate to gain a foothold in the City of Angels.“
NOTE: CALÓ NEWS is committed to reporting on hate crimes related to Latinos, from victims to perpetrators to change makers. If you or your organization would like to share your expertise regarding hate crime prevention in Los Angeles and Southern Californa, please contact Brenda Fernanda Verano at email@example.com.