Anti-Black, Gay and Asian Bias Fueling California Hate Crime Surge
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Hate crimes in California rose 33% to nearly 1,800 reported incidents in 2021, the sixth-highest tally on record and the highest since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, said the state attorney general’s office on Tuesday.
Attorney General Rob Bonta said crimes against black people were again the most prevalent in 2021, increasing 13% from 2020 to 513 reported incidents. Hate crimes motivated by biases related to sexual orientation rose nearly 50% to 303 incidents, while crimes against Asian Americans rose 178% to 247 incidents.
“A hard truth in our state, just as we see it across the country, is that the epidemic of hate we’ve seen spurred during the pandemic remains a clear and present threat,” Bonta, a Democrat, said during an interview. a press conference on Tuesday. “Each of these incidents represents an attack on a person, a neighbor, a family member, a fellow Californian.”
Last year’s annual report showed an equally high increase – 31% – with anti-black bias making up the bulk of incidents in a state where African Americans make up 6% of the population. The 2020 report also showed a surprising increase in bias crimes against Asian Americans following the emergence of the coronavirus in China.
A video of attacks involving Asian American victims, particularly elderly people, went viral last year with San Francisco police in January reporting a stunning 567% increase in reported crimes of the previous year. The initial tally put 60 victims in 2021, up from nine in 2020. Half of last year’s victims were believed to have been targeted by a single man. However, not all felony attacks come with a hate crime charge, as prosecutors must prove the suspect was motivated by bias.
In San Francisco, the 2021 death of an 84-year-old Thai grandfather is set to go to trial, though the district attorney’s office has not filed a hate crime charge in the case. .
Officials say statistics on reported hate crimes may be far lower than the actual numbers, but add that they have taken steps to encourage victims to report them. Nationally, hate crimes hit their highest level in more than a decade in 2019, according to an FBI report.
The 1,763 hate crimes reported in California in 2021 are the highest since 2001, when 2,261 hate crimes were reported.
Community leaders who joined Bonta at Tuesday’s press conference urged people to report the crimes and seek out resources such as mental health services. Cirian Villavicencio, commissioner of the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs, said hateful attacks on the Asian American and Pacific Islander community are not new.
But the sheer increase in attacks during the pandemic was alarming, he said.
“Our elders have been physically assaulted, women and youth have been verbally abused, AAPI students have been harassed and bullied at school, and AAPI-owned small businesses have been targeted and discriminated against simply because ‘they were AAPI,” Villavicencio said.
In May, a white gunman killed 10 black shoppers and workers at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York. A sharp rise in anti-Asian bias since 2020 included the March 2021 murder of eight people at a massage in the Atlanta area companies, including six women of Asian origin.
A hate crime is motivated by the gender, nationality, race or ethnic origin, religion, sexual orientation or disability of the victim. Hateful incidents such as slurs are not necessarily criminal. The California Department of Justice has collected and reported statewide data on hate crimes since 1995.
Crimes showing bias against Latinos increased 30% to 197 incidents in 2021, while anti-Jewish bias events increased 32% to 152 in 2021, the most in the religious bias category.
Bonta announced the new Statewide Hate Crimes Coordinator position within the California Department of Justice to assist state and local law enforcement efforts in combating hate crimes .
The report also showed that elected district attorneys and municipal prosecutors filed 30% more cases in 2021 involving hate crime charges.