Anti-Asian hate crimes experience a slight increase according to new hate crime report
THE Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations (LACCHR) released its annual tally of reported hate crimes in Los Angeles County and presented a 2.6% uptick in 2018.
California state law classifies a hate crime as any incident in which “bias, hatred or prejudice based on a victim’s real or perceived race/ethnicity, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, gender or sexual orientation” are a main or substantial aspect of an offense.
Spoken or written hate speech, i.e. slurs and derogatory epithets, are only classified a hate crime if there is a threat of violence attached to the offense since such language on its own “is protected by free speech rights.”
In numerical measures, the county experienced 521 total reported hate crimes in 2018, which is the most since 2009. Racially-motivated hate crimes comprise the largest chunk of all hate crimes (52%) and rose 11% in 2018.
The report found that blacks (African American and Afro-Latinx) were not only disproportionately the targets of racially motivated attacks but also anti-LGBT attacks. Crimes against the LGBT community rose 20%, and 72% of these crimes were violent in nature.
Regarding anti-Asian hate crimes, the number jumped slightly from 18 in 2017 to 19 in 2019.
Although the Asian community were the targets in only 7% of reported racially-charged hate crimes, the LACCHR believe that underreporting of these incidents runs rampant among the API community due to “linguistic and cultural barriers, immigration status, unfamiliarity with the justice system and fear that reporting hate crimes could bring retaliation or unwanted publicity.”
“The troubling rise of these acts of hate must be met with unwavering condemnation,” said LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis at a press conference unveiling the report on Wednesday, Sept. 25. “We must come together in solidarity to combat racism and bigotry head-on. As part of this ongoing effort, we must also initiate honest conversations and build bridges of understanding with one another and tear down walls of fear and division.”
Solis announced that she will introduce a motion at a Board of Supervisors meeting on October 1 “that will launch LA County’s first anti-hate initiative” which would take a look at the ways in which residents report hate crimes.
While the report sheds light on some concerning trends, local law enforcement and elected officials lament the crimes which are not being reported. According to an U.S. Dept. of Justice estimate stemmed from a national survey, 54% of hate-motivated incidents (which includes hate crimes) were not reported between 2011 and 2015.
“The steady increase in hate crimes in our county is alarming. As this report shows, hate not only impacts our most vulnerable residents, but it also has a devastating impact on all families and communities. We must fight intolerance with unity. It is our duty to ensure that seeds of hate are not planted in our society by redoubling our efforts to ensure that no hate acts go unreported,” LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said.
The commission noted that undocumented immigrants of all communities may be hesitant to report hate crimes for fear of deportation or other consequences related to their status as undocumented. But Solis said at the press conference that information on a victim’s citizenship status will not be shared with immigration officials.
“There is an underreporting of crimes within the immigrant community and we know that, and that’s why it’s important for us to bolster our support with law enforcement agencies and that they are also well-trained and know that any reporting won’t be used against [undocumented victims] or deferred to ICE or other immigration authorities,” Solis said.
As law enforcement and lawmakers pointed out, the county’s rise in hate crimes coincides with those of other major cities and counties across the U.S.
Just south of LA County, Orange County also experienced a massive uptick in hate crimes, going from 67 reported hate crimes to 165 reported hate crimes, an “alarming” 37% increase in just one year, according to the Orange County Human Relations Commission.
These trends contradict the decrease in hate crimes nationally, which calls into question the enormity of hate incidents and hate crimes occurring in areas that have higher concentrations of minorities.
Those who spoke at Wednesday’s press conference made no bones about the motivations behind these hate crimes, referencing the controversial and often coarse rhetoric delivered by President Donald Trump directed at immigrants, the Latinx community and other minority groups.
“All of us know fully well what is going on and this environment continues to motivate individuals to act out, be it through physical attacks or language,” Solis said. “All I can say is that words hurt and they matter, but when it’s physical, even more so. One assault on one group is an assault on all of us.” (Klarize Medenilla/AJPress)