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L.A. Expecting Another Record Year for Hate Crimes

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Note: This article first appeared on Crosstown and is shared with their permission in partnership with Los Angeleno. You can subscribe to Crosstown for crime, traffic and air quality news here.

Already 2020 has a 14% jump over last year’s level.

The number of hate crimes reported in the City of Los Angeles in the first nine months of the year increased 14% over the same period in 2019. That puts 2020 on track to have the highest number of hate crimes since the city began making its data public more than a decade ago.

The increase is even more pronounced because overall crime in the city has fallen by 9.7% this year. Experts attribute the rise to tensions driven by the coronavirus pandemic along with the response to mass demands for racial justice.

“We are hearing reports across the city of an increase in hate incidents of all types — anti-Semitism, anti-Asian, that followed the COVID-19 outbreak — or acts of racism related to protests following the murder of George Floyd,” said Jeffrey Abrams, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League.

According to Los Angeles Police Department data, 287 hate crimes were reported in the city from January to September, up from 251 in the same timeframe last year.

The LAPD defines a hate crime as “any criminal act or attempted criminal act directed against a person or persons based on the victim’s actual or perceived race, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, disability or gender.”

These are separate from “hate incidents,” which generally include instances of abuse stemming from racial, gender or sexual-orientation bias, but do not result in a formal crime report. Hate incidents climbed 157% during the same period, with 77 so far in 2020, compared with 30 at the same time last year.

Rising Intolerance

Hate crimes in Los Angeles have risen steadily, spiking 52% from 2015 to last year. The 326 hate crimes reported in 2019 marked a record high, which is now likely to be surpassed by this year’s totals.

Although non-criminal hate incidents have fluctuated during the same time period, Abrams said there has been a dramatic rise in incidents involving anti-Semitism. An audit by the Anti-Defamation League (which has been collecting its own data from various sources across the country for 40 years) said there were more than 2,100 acts of anti-Semitic harassment across the United States last year.

Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, said the figures represent an undercount, as many victims of hate crimes or hate incidents are immigrants who have cultural or language barriers that keep them from reporting. Hate crimes are underreported because victims may not trust the police will do anything about it, which is part of the reason the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that less than half of all hate crimes are reported to the police.

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