SANTA ANA — Hate crimes in Orange County increased by 24% last year compared to 2018, according to an annual report released Oct. 20 by the OC Human Relations Commission.
Hate “incidents,” which are reported encounters involving some sort of bigotry that doesn’t rise to the level of a crime, went down in the same period, according to the report.
The report defines a hate incident as “the behavior that is motivated by hate or bias towards a person’s actual or perceived disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation, but is not criminal in nature. Typically, these behaviors are protected by the First Amendment right to freedom of expression.
“If this type of behavior escalates to threats or carried out against a person or property, or become an incitement to commit violence, it would be classified as a hate crime.”
There were 83 reported hate crimes in the county last year, up from 67 in 2018. Hate incidents decreased from 165 to 156.
The increase in hate crimes was the largest seen in the county in the last five years, according to the report.
Most often, the hate crime victims were targeted because of their race, ethnicity or national origin, at a rate of 47% last year. The second-highest reason was religion at 28%, sexual orientation at 18%, gender identity at 5% and disability at 1%.
Of the hate crimes motivated by race, ethnicity and/or national origin, 53% were driven by anti-Black sentiment followed by anti-Hispanic (30%) and anti-Asian (17%).
Of the religious-based hate crimes, 52% targeted Jewish people, followed by Roman Catholics, Christians and Muslims at 14% combined, according to the report.
Of the hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation and gender identity, 78% were considered “anti-gay,” followed by misogyny at 11% and anti-transgender at 11%.
The hate crimes occurred in public places 37% of the time, 18% in places of worship, 17% in residences, 13% on school campuses, 12% in workplaces and in jails at 4%.
The top form of hate crime was vandalism at 44%, followed by aggravated assaults at 22%, simple assault at 13%, criminal threats at 9%, harassment at 5%, theft at 4%, assault and battery at 3% and arson at 1%.
Although hate “incidents” fell by 6%, the commission cautioned that hate incidents are “notoriously underreported for a variety of reasons.” The Southern Poverty Law Center estimates about 260,000 hate incidents go unreported each year nationally.
Religion, at 44%, was the main cause of hate incidents, followed by race-ethnicity-national origin at 39%, sexual orientation and gender identity at 15% and 2% for more than one reason.
Jews were the main target of anti-religion intolerance at 65%, followed by Muslims, targeted at 31%.
Of the hate incidents involving race or ethnicity, 51% involved Black people, followed by Latinos at 13% and multiple races at 13%.
Of hate incidents motivated by sexual orientation/gender identity, 68% were anti-gay, followed by anti-female (14%), anti-lesbian (9%) and anti-LGBT in general (9%).
The top form of hate incidents was harassment and hate speech at 74%, followed by vandalism at 21%, simple assault at 3% and 2% aggravated assault.
The places where the hate incidents occurred most frequently were on school campuses at 44%, followed by 23% in workplaces or businesses, 15% in public, 7% on private property, 7% over the phone or online and 3% in places of worship.
Of the on-campus hate incidents, 41% were in high schools, 25% in middle schools, 19% in colleges and 15% in elementary schools. According to the CDC, students who experience hate crimes or hate incidents are at increased risk for lower academic achievement as they tend to skip school and are more likely to drop out.
Of the 30 cases brought to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office for prosecution, 18 led to charges being filed, with eight rejected and four pending additional investigation. In 13 of the cases, hate crime charges were filed.
In 2018, 32 cases were brought to prosecutors, up from 17 in 2017 and a dozen in 2016.
The report note that of the county’s population of roughly 3.2 million, about 30% are foreign-born, 40% speak a language other than English, and over 80 religious faiths are practiced.
The commission said that it “believes that our diversity, anchored to common values of tolerance, respect and goodwill, enhances our county’s social fabric, and we should celebrate the richness and abundance it brings. Unfortunately, hate crimes and incidents still occur in our county.”
According to the Human Relations Commission, help for victims of hate crimes is available in the form of:
• Support in communicating with law enforcement, courts and other authorities
• Translation services for non-English speakers
• Information resources and referrals
• Crisis intervention and counseling
• Orientation to the criminal justice system
• Emergency financial application assistance
• Support with property return, restitution assistance, filing compensation claims, temporary restraining orders, emergency transportation, and case status/disposition information
The report lists organizations that support and defend victims of hate crimes, including Japanese American Citizens League Pacific Southwest District, OC Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance, and Sikh Council California.
A statement from OC Human Relations CEO Alison Edwards on the report:
“This week the Orange County Human Relations Commission has released the 2019 Hate Crime Report. It documents an alarming five-year rise in hate crime in Orange County. But unlike the last four reports it comes out in the middle of a national movement for racial equity.
“At our nonprofit, OC Human Relations, we believe that all people deserve to live free of hate and violence. We have endeavored to bring attention to the impact of hate and hate crime on those targeted, the communities they identify with and our broader county.
“Hate crime has a unique and devastating effect because it targets whole communities through the violence and terror against one of its members.
“Just imagine how it would feel to know that someone who looks like you, loves like you, worships like you or even comes from your hometown has been attacked for being who they are. Imagine wondering if you could be next, if you can be safe being who you are and living true to your being.
“Now remember that for the last five years more people have had to face this each year in Orange County as our numbers have increased – and that is just a reflection of the reported numbers. We know that hate crime is grossly underreported and that we likely do not hear from the majority of people who are targeted each year.
“Now imagine a county where no one has those worries. A place where your life is not limited by the hate of others – where no one’s life is limited by the hate of others. Let’s go even further and imagine moving beyond the common notion that diversity is an issue to be managed or dealt with. Let’s push back against the fear and rhetoric that would have us believe that so many of our neighbors are really our enemies.
“I believe that we can do better and that we must. We are a diverse county, but we can do better. We can be an inclusive county where the people who live here feel safe and good about staying here. Where each of our friends and neighbors is free to contribute to the social and economic success of our region because we have broken through the barriers that bigotry and hate would out in our way.
“But we can’t breakthrough those barriers without talking about hate, bias, racism, sexism, homophobia and all the forms of discrimination that stop us from achieving the liberty and justice for all that we as a nation have fought for at home and afar.
“You are likely reading this because you already share these beliefs and support OC Human Relations through your time, talent and/or treasure.
“From all of us here, I thank you for your commitment to positive human relations in our county. The people of our county need all of you to be champions for a diversity, inclusion and equity. Together we are building a world where we all feel safe, valued and included.”
To download a copy of the report, go to this page: https://www.ochumanrelations.org/commission/2019-hate-crime-report/