L.A. County says hate crimes surged in 2022

Hate crimes in Los Angeles County surged in 2022 to the highest level in two decades, according to a report released Wednesday by the county Commission on Human Relations.

The report, which the county has produced annually since 1980, found that at least 929 people were victims of hate crimes in that year, an 18% increase over 2021. It is the largest total the county has reported since 2001, according to the report.

Officials noted a sharp rise in hate crimes against Muslim and Jewish individuals since the Israel-Hamas war began on Oct. 7, but those are not part of the 2022 report.

The report found nearly three-quarters of the crimes were violent, and Black and Jewish residents were disproportionately the victims. Anti-Black hate crimes rose by 34%, according to the report. Anti-Jewish crimes spiked by 59%.

“Nearly every race, ethnicity, nationality and religion has been targeted for hate crime in our county,” Robin Toma, executive director of the Commission on Human Relations, said at a news conference Wednesday.

Toma said he believed the rise in hate crimes was in part due to a more muscular reporting system. The county launched its LA vs Hate initiative in 2020, which includes a government hotline for reporting hate crimes.

“But we also know that the increase in actual hate crime is real because other jurisdictions we know of have reported similar rises in hate crimes,” said Toma, noting that 2022 was a year in which major news stories — continuing fallout from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, and, locally, the release of a recording in which city leaders made racist remarks — may have bitterly divided constituents.

The commission highlights specific examples of hate crimes that took place last year, many of which never made headlines; a white man throwing a cup of coffee at a Japanese man, telling him to “go back to where you came from”; three white men driving a truck with a Confederate flag yelling racial slurs at two Mexican men; a Black teenage boy in Marina Del Rey receiving a FaceTime call from a man who flashed his firearms and said he planned to carry out a mass shooting targeting Black people.

“In any given year, only a handful of hate crimes ever get reported in the media,” said commission President Ilan Davidson. “This report tells the stories of the hundreds of other nameless victims.”

The report comes at a time of rising anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim crimes following the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war. Three Palestinian college students were shot in Vermont. A 6-year-old Muslim boy was fatally stabbed in Chicago. Swastikas have cropped up on school lockers and college dorms.

“We know this is a particularly tense time with the violence and the war between Hamas and Israel is causing not only suffering there, but suffering here,” said Toma, adding the commission was learning of a growing number of hate crimes targeting both Muslims and Jews.

The report goes only through the end of 2022 and does not include data on the hate crimes that took place after Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, prompting Israel to bombard Gaza. But both Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna and Asst. Chief Blake Chow of the Los Angeles Police Department shared newer data indicating that local hate crimes against Muslim and Jewish individuals had skyrocketed since the war began.

Chow said the LAPD had seen a 267% increase in antisemitic hate crimes in the period between Oct. 6 and Nov. 20 compared with the same period last year. He said anti-Muslim hate crimes had increased 633% — to 22 from three.

“Acts of hate and racism will have absolutely no place in this county,” Luna said. “Please report this.”

According to the report, there were 121 anti-Latino hate crimes last year — a 3% increase from the year before. Perpetrators used anti-immigrant slurs — typically against Mexicans — in many of the anti-Latino crimes. The vast majority were violent.

“I find it disturbing to learn that Latino victims of hate incidents also have hurtful racist and anti-Mexican slurs used against them,” said county Supervisor Hilda Solis, the first Latina to serve in a presidential Cabinet. “It’s no secret many of us have faced that through our careers.”

Anti-Asian hate crimes, which rose dramatically during the pandemic with perpetrators blaming victims for the spread of COVID-19, decreased by 25%, to 61. While a sizable decline, officials noted this was still the second-largest number of hate crimes ever reported against Asians.

Eighteen percent of hate crimes were motivated by sexual orientation, according to the report, with most targeting gay men. Forty-four anti-transgender crimes were documented — the largest number ever reported.

According to the report, 97 hate crime cases were referred to the L.A. County district attorney’s office in 2022. Charges were filed in 86 cases.

“Every member of our community deserves to feel safe and valued,” said Dist. Atty. George Gascón. “And we will work tirelessly towards ensuring that reality.”

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