Crimes: Hate crimes increased in Los Angeles County by about 20 percent year on year. Courtesy image

Even though many residents were confined to their homes for months at a time, the number of hate crimes in Los Angeles soared in 2020 reaching the highest levels recorded since 2013.

The 20 percent year-on-year increase in hate crimes was largely due to a 54 percent spike in racial crimes. Crimes rose against African Americans, Latinos, whites and Asians.

The director of the L.A. County Commission on Human Relations Robin Toma pointed to three separate but unique events as being the drivers behind the explosion in hate: the presidential election, the pandemic and the protest movement following the killing of George Floyd.

The election led to increased partisan and racial division, while the protest movement was related to more racial clashes. The pandemic fueled resentment and anger, much of which was unfairly directed towards Asian Americans.

“This was a perfect storm that brought into focus so many phenomena that tore at our society’s social fabric and surfaced many pre-existing prejudices, intergroup tensions and divisions,” said Toma.

In total there were 635 hate crimes reported in the County in 2020, although Toma took care to point out that the US Department of Justice’s crime victimization surveys repeatedly indicate that at least twice as many hate crimes occur as are officially reported.

The greatest number of hate crimes took place in the Metro Service Planning Area, which extends from West Hollywood to Boyle Heights, followed by the San Fernando Valley region. However, when examining hate crimes on a per capita basis, the Western region of Los Angeles, which includes parts of West L.A., Beverly Hills, Culver City and several beach communities, ranked second.

The Black community bore a disproportionate brunt of hate crimes. While only accounting for 9 percent of County residents, African Americans comprised 42 percent of racial crime victims. Anti-black crimes rose by 25 percent, increasing from 125 in 2019 to 169 in 2020.

Breaking with previous patterns, there was also a spike in hate crimes against white individuals, which grew from 22 incidents to 50, representing a 127 percent surge.

“The increase that we saw against a number of the racial groups, particularly African Americans and whites, you know, there are some cases that would indicate that they occurred related to the protests,” said Toma.

Anti-Asian hate crimes, which surged across the nation in 2020, rose 76 percent in L.A. County, from 25 incidents to 44.

Hate crimes can take many forms, but are broadly defined as a criminal offense where prejudice against a victim’s race, religion, sexual orientation, gender or disability is a substantial factor in the motivation of the action. Hate crimes can include violence, assault, targeted graffiti, robbery and intimidation.

In 2020, 68 percent of hate crimes were of a violent nature, which was the largest proportion of violence among recorded crimes since 2003.

Of all groups experiencing hate crimes, transgender individuals experienced violence at the highest rate, which was 94 percent. Fortunately, there was a 24 percent decrease in anti-transgender crimes in 2020, which dropped from 42 to 32 incidents, although it was still the third highest number ever recorded.

There was also a slight decrease in religiously motivated hate crimes, which dropped from 105 to 86. The Jewish community was the target of 88 percent of these cases.

The County is addressing the ongoing increases in hate crimes through a number of different approaches.

“We have three Deputy District Attorneys in our hate crimes unit that not only prosecute hate crimes, but they also work everyday to prevent these crimes from happening,” said District Attorney George Gascón. “We’re using all laws at our disposal, prosecution, community outreach, prevention, education, and training. We’re working with community based organizations and nonprofits to raise awareness and resilience to hate crimes throughout the County.”

Another key effort is L.A. vs Hate initiative, which was launched in 2020. The initiative includes an advertising campaign to encourage residents to unite against hate, the first government hate crime reporting hotline and a network of community response and advocacy agencies. For more information visit www.lavshate.org.

Clara@smdp.com