PUBLIC SAFETY FACILITY — Santa Monica bucked a national trend in 2011 that showed an increase in the number of hate crimes targeting people because of their sexual orientation.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation released new numbers this week that showed a 1.5 percent uptick in crimes against people based on their sexual orientation across the nation.

That makes 2011 the first time that sexual orientation has overtaken religion as the second-most common motivation for hate crime behind race, said Stephen Fischer, a spokesperson for the Criminal Justice Information Services division of the FBI.

“Historically, race biases led the distribution of bias motivated crimes, followed by religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity/national origin and disability,” Fischer said. “This distribution was altered for the first time in 2011; sexual orientation biases now outweigh religious biases by (1) percent.”

Santa Monica reported no such incidents, despite its place in Los Angeles County which reported an increase in crimes against people because of their sexual orientation in 2011 amidst an overall 15 percent increase in the number of hate crimes.

That’s still the second-lowest number of hate crimes reported in 22 years, according to the 2011 Hate Crime Report, which was released in October 2012.

Sexual orientation was the basis of 25 percent of hate crimes reported in the county, and the number of incidents rose 13 percent from 112 to 127, according to the report.

Gay men were targeted in 84 percent of those cases, according to the report.

Unlike national results, sexual orientation has almost always followed race in the number of hate crimes reported to authorities, said Marshall Wong, principal author of the annual report.

“We have also tracked consistently that it’s more likely to be of a violent nature than either racial or religious-based crimes,” Wong said. “The single group that consistently gets the highest rate of violence are transgender victims.”

The county relies on efforts in public schools to combat bullying and reduce sexual orientation-inspired crimes. Officials point to a relatively new partnership between the Los Angeles Unified School District and the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center called “Project Spin,” a suicide prevention program targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and youth questioning their sexuality.

Santa Monica has a reputation for being progressive and inviting, Wong said. The city by the sea did have a spike in hate crimes in 2011 due to a rash of swastikas that were spraypainted in the North of Montana Avenue neighborhood, but that was an outlier, Wong said.

Historically, Santa Monica has seen problems with racial crimes and conflict between African Americans and Latinos. Elements of that tension cropped up in late 2011 and early 2012 at Santa Monica High School with a series of fights that took place on and off campus.

There was one race-related incident in 2011, and one based on a person’s ethnicity or country of origin, according to the report.

Overall, the incidences of hate crimes are low, said Sgt. Richard Lewis, a spokesperson for the Santa Monica Police Department, the agency that provides statistics both to the FBI and the county.

Officers are trained to identify hate crimes and investigate them, Lewis said, but the problems are not commonplace.

Although the FBI has been collecting crime information for its Uniform Crime Report since 1930, the agency only began recording hate crimes in 1990 after Congress passed the Hate Crime Statistics Act mandating that the attorney general collect the data.

The types of information gathered have been supplemented twice since. The first time was in 1994 to include biases against people with disabilities, and the second was in 2009 to include bias against a particular gender and gender identity.

That amendment, called the Matthew Shepard and James Bird, Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act, also included crimes by and directed against juveniles.

Hate crimes are hugely underreported, according to the 2011 Hate Crime Report.

The National Crime Victim Survey by the U.S. Justice Department, which some in the field believe is a better indicator of crime than the Uniform Crime Report, found that hate crimes occurred 24 to 28 times more than what was reported by police to the FBI, according to the report.

That’s both because of victims not reporting the crimes as hate crimes and law enforcement failing to classify crimes as hate crimes and report them to federal authorities.

 

 

ashley@smdp.com

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