OLYMPIC BLVD — A rude awakening awaited the diverse and progressive community at New Roads School where a threatening message had been scribbled on a bathroom stall inside the boy’s restroom.
“On 4-20-09 a black kid will die at this school.”
“P.S. Be ready.”
The unfulfilled threat that was discovered at the local private school on April 15 was one of two hate crimes that have been reported in Santa Monica this year, an increase from 2008 when no such incidents were reported to police.
State law defines a hate crime as offenses that were motivated by the suspect’s bias, hatred or prejudice against the victim’s real or perceived race, ethnicity, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, gender or sexual orientation.
The numbers for such crimes in liberal Santa Monica have remained low over the past decade when an average of half a dozen incidents were reported each year with the exception of 2001 when there were 29, most of which were fueled by anti-Islamic sentiments following the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
“We’re such a melting pot … and I think whenever you see something that is hate based it becomes such big news and it’s not something promoted or accepted as a community,” SMPD Sgt. Jay Trisler said.
The most recent hate crime took place on Sept. 3 on the 2900 block of the beach where a woman and her 3-year-old son were accosted by a homeless man, who remarked to the woman “Speaky English,” followed by a racial epithet.
The suspect allegedly approached the woman and her son again, this time kicking the boy off of his scooter, referring to him as the racial epithet again.
Police have not made arrests in either incidents.
Countywide there were 729 hate crimes reported in 2008, according to a recent study by the L.A. County Commission on Human Rights, showing a drop from incidents the previous year in which there were 763.
The highest rate of hate crimes was found in the Antelope Valley where there are reportedly several active white supremacist groups. The San Fernando Valley had the highest concentration of crimes, including those that were motivated by race, religion and sexual orientation, Marshall Wong, the main author of the report, said.
Approximately 61 percent of crimes reported in the county were driven by racial, ethnic or national origin basis, targeting mostly African-Americans and Latinos.
Hate crimes between the two ethnic groups also remained high — Black victims of racial hate crimes were targeted by Latinos 69 percent of the time and vice versa 61 percent of the time.
Following the controversial gay marriage debate last year with Proposition 8, sexual orientation motivated crimes remained the second largest group with 18 percent. Approximately 81 percent of homophobic crimes targeted gay men.
Religion came in third with the majority of crimes in that category being anti-Jewish.
Gang members accounted for 22 percent of racial hate crimes.
Hate crimes are more common in communities that were once overwhelmingly occupied by one race and are now seeing an influx of a new group.
“It’s a consistent problem in parts of South L.A. that were one time overwhelming African-American but have now had large numbers of Latinos moving in,” Wong said.