The Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations (LACCHR) on Sept. 29 released its annual account of hate crimes reported throughout Los Angeles County in 2015.
After trending downwards for seven years, hate crimes rose 24% from 390 to 483, the largest number reported since 2011. By comparison, during this same year the California Attorney General’s Office reported a much smaller statewide increase in hate crime of 10% during the same year.
There were increases across the board in crimes motivated by race, sexual orientation, religion, and gender/gender identity. As in past years, the largest number of hate crimes targeted African Americans, who represent only about 8.3% of county residents but were 58% of victims of racial hate crime. A significant factor driving the over-representation of black hate crime victims are racially motivated attacks by street gangs, mostly those with ties to the prison-based Mexican Mafia gang.
Hilda Solis, chair of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, said, “This is troubling news that confirms the need to protect our residents of this county who deserve to live free of prejudice, discrimination, harassment and violence.”
She added, “Under my leadership, our Board of Supervisors took action to address Islamophobia earlier this year, and I will continue to make it a priority for the County of Los Angeles.”
Hate crimes targeting many other groups rose in 2015. Anti-Latino crimes jumped 69%. There were also increases in bigoted attacks on Jews, gay men, lesbians, Muslims, Asian Americans, Armenians, and transgender women. Anti-Muslim and Middle Eastern crimes spiked in November and December after the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino.
Consistent with previous years, transgender women experienced the highest rate of violence. All 18 of these crimes were of a violent nature, while 84% of crimes targeting gay men and lesbians were violent, the highest percentage since 2003. By comparison, 68% of racial crimes and only 21% of religious crimes were of a violent nature. The overall rate of violence rose slightly from 62% to 63% and there were three attempted murders.
“We are extremely concerned that reported hate crimes increased dramatically in 2015,” said Robin Toma, LACCHR executive director. “The disturbing rise in bias-motivated crime indicates that despite the gains made by historically marginalized communities, bigoted attacks are still a daily occurrence and that is unacceptable.”
“The over-representation of African Americans as victims of racial hate crimes, the high rates of violence experienced by LGBT victims, and the spike in anti-Muslim and Middle Eastern hate crimes at the end of 2015 are reminders that our work is far from over,” said LACCHR President Isabelle Gunning.
Hate crimes occurred throughout the variety of regions of the county, but the largest number of hate crimes took place in the San Fernando Valley, followed by the Metro region, which stretches from West Hollywood to Boyle Heights. The highest rate of hate crimes occurred in the Metro region, followed by the western part of the county, includes a number of affluent cities. The western region was the site of a large number of anti-Jewish vandalisms.
L.A. County Sheriff’s Executive Officer Neal Tyler added, “Since taking office, Sheriff Jim McDonnell has made outreach to all communities a priority, in part to ensure that trust is continuously fortified between sheriff’s personnel and the people who are targeted victims of hate. Sheriff McDonnell remains passionate about combating hate and all forms of bigotry. He is well aware that hate crimes victimize each of us in the same way terrorism threatens our peace of mind, even for those not specifically targeted.
“The LASD will continue our outreach efforts, our trust building, our investigative and enforcement activities, and our hate crime prevention undertakings, such as educating our youth through our ‘SHARE Tolerance’ program.”
Findings for APIs
• The number of hate crimes targeting Asian Pacific Islanders from 2003 to 2015 ranges from a high of 38 in 2007 to a low of 6 in 2014. However, that number tripled to 18 in 2015.
• The rate of violence for hate crimes targeting APIs from 2003 to 2015 peaked at 83% in 2015. Prior to that, the highest rate was 68% in 2008. The lowest rate was 32% in 2005.
• The targeted API groups from 2003 included API (ethnicity not specified), 103; Chinese, 79; Korean, 27; South Asian, 23; Japanese, 16; Filipino, 7; Vietnamese, 4. In 2015, the most targeted group was Chinese (11), followed by API (3), South Asian (2), Filipino (1) and Korean (1).
• The types of hate crimes targeting APIs from 2003 to 2015 included vandalism (97), simple assault (62), intimidation (39), aggravated assault (32), disorderly conduct (15), robbery (8), burglary (5), arson (3), and attempted murder (3). In 2015, the breakdown was simple assault (9), aggravated assault (4), vandalism (3) and intimidation (2).
• Locations for hate crimes targeting APIs from 2003 to 2015: residence (98), public place (65), business (56), school (28), religious site/organization (20), government/public building (15), community-based (2), electronic communication (1). The breakdown for 2015: public place (8), residence (4), government/public building (3), school (2), business (1).
• The race of suspects in hate crimes targeting APIs from 2003 to 2015: Latino, 50 percent; white, 28 percent; black, 16 percent; API, 6 percent. In 2015: Latino, 50 percent; white and black, 25 percent each.
• Cities with the largest number of hate crimes targeting APIs from 2003 to 2015: Los Angeles (99), Long Beach (12), Arcadia (9), Cerritos (7), Duarte (7), El Monte (7), West Covina (7), San Gabriel (6), Manhattan Beach (6), Rowland Heights (6).
In response to these findings, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles said in a statement, “As a civil rights organization, Advancing Justice-LA has a long history of advocating for the victims of racial hate crimes and their families. We are troubled to see seven years of declining hate activity reversed last year, and in particular to see a jump in both anti-Muslim and anti-Chinese hate crimes.
“At the same time, we are not necessarily surprised. History has taught us that global events and political rhetoric directly impact hate activity. In 2015, we witnessed rising hostility towards China on trade and economic issues and the tragic attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, as well as presidential campaign rhetoric that both targeted China as an enemy and demonized Muslims as a community.
“We are fearful that the escalation of both dynamics in 2016 will lead to a continued surge in anti-Chinese and anti-Muslim hate activity. We urge our community to be vigilant of such attacks and to report any suspected hate crimes to law enforcement.”
Examples of 2015 Anti-Asian Hate Crimes
March 9, Chatsworth: A young Indian male was riding his bicycle when a car pulled up next to him. He heard someone yell, “Go back, you f—ing Indian!” and one of the vehicle’s occupants threw two water bottles at him.
March 20, East Los Angeles: Unknown suspect(s) wrote “F— you Chinks,” and “Die Chinks” in a men’s restroom at a community college
April 1, South Park: A Korean woman found her business vandalized. The front of her building had been spray-painted with an anarchy symbol and the words “KOREANS KILL PIRU BLOODS.” Piru is the name of a gang.
April 21, Koreatown: A young Mongolian male was at a convenience store with three friends. He left them and began walking through the parking lot in the direction of his home. Suddenly, a vehicle pulled alongside him. Two Latino males exited the car and one of them yelled, “What are you doing here, you f—ing Asian?” He then picked up a glass bottle and struck the victim in the head. The second suspect punched him. The victim screamed for help and his friends ran over to help him. The suspects fled in their vehicle.
April 29, Exposition Park: A Chinese male was riding his bicycle when he passed a white female. The suspect suddenly pushed the victim, causing him to fall to the ground, and then fled on foot. Police detained the suspect and she admitted that she assaulted the victim because she hated Chinese people. The suspect also made derogatory remarks to the officer about African Americans and other groups.
June 9, Downtown Los Angeles: A black male and Chinese female were walking from the platform level of a Metro station. Suddenly, the suspect punched her in the eye, causing her to fall to the ground and lose consciousness. The suspect yelled, “F— you, Chinese bitch” and fled the scene. He was detained by a plainclothes sheriff’s deputy and arrested.