Hate Crimes in California Jumped by 31% Last Year
Hate crimes in California surged 31% in 2020, fueled mainly by a big jump in incidents targeting Black people and, to a lesser extent, Asian Americans,Â during a pandemic year that saw the worst racial strife in decades, according to an annual reportÂ released Wednesday by the state’s attorney general.
Overall hate crimes increased from 1,015 to 1,330 last year, while the number of victims increased 23%, from 1,247 to 1,536. Black people account for 6.5% of California’s nearly 40 million people, but were victims in 30% of all hate crimes â totaling 456 â up 87% from the previous year.
âWhat we see from these reports is what we have seen and felt all year â we are in the midst of a racial justice reckoning in this country. Itâs multifaceted, and it cannot be solved overnight.â Attorney General Rob Bonta said.
California saw some of the largest protests after the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. And it also saw a surge in attacks on people of Asian descent following the emergence of the coronavirus in China.
The number of hate crimes reported in the state last year was the most since 2008, when there were 1,397. That, in turn, was topped several times in prior years, including 2001, when there were 2,261 hate crimes reported.
There were 89 reported hate crimes targeting Asians in 2020, more than double the number in 2019. The highest number of incidents in 2020 were reported in March and April, just as the statewide shutdown and other pandemic restrictions took hold.
âFor too many, 2020 wasnât just about a deadly virus, it was about an epidemic of hate as well,â Bonta said at a press event in Oaklandâs Chinatown. âFor many, the past year wasn’t just worrying about your health, your job, seeing your friends and family. It was also about wondering whether you or someone you love would be attacked simply because of the way you look.â
While the pandemic is easing, that fear still resides in the Asian American community, said Bonta, the stateâs first Filipino American attorney general. He related that he feared even for his mother going alone into an urban area.
âThere was a surge in anti-Asian violence correlated with the words of leaders who sought to divide us when we were at our most vulnerable,â said Bonta, a Democrat, in an apparent reference to former President Donald Trump.
Violent crime incidents driven by anti-Asian hate increased from 32 in 2019 to 72 in 2020, according to aÂ companion report that aims to put that violence into modern and historical context dating to the Gold Rush days of the mid-19th century.
California defines hate crimes as those targeting victims because of their race or ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, gender or disability. The definitions have been expanded at various times in recent years. Each hate crime event can include more than one related offense against more than one victim, and by more than one offender.
Such crimes targeting Latinos increased from 110 in 2019 to 152 last year, while those against white people rose from 39 to 82.
While hate crimes based on race increased, those prompted by religion dropped 13.5%. Anti-Jewish incidents fell from 141 in 2019 to 115 in 2020, and anti-Islamic incidents decreased from 25 to 15.
Those involving sexual orientation fell from 233 to 205. However, those with a gender bias increased, led by a jump in anti-transgender incidents, from 29 in 2019 to 54 last year.
Though Bonta noted that more than half of hate crimes are believed to go unreported, he said he has confidence in local investigators and prosecutors to address the problem.
He nonetheless distributed a new law enforcement bulletin and guidance for prosecutors intended to help them identify and investigate hate crimes, increase immediate and consistent contact with victims and their communities, and promote alternative forms of sentencing and restorative justice approaches when dealing with perpetrators.
Carl Chan, president of Oaklandâs Chinatown Chamber of Commerce, praised Bonta’s office for also releasing updated brochures in 25 languages advising victims on how to report hate crimes and seek assistance.
Chan, whoÂ was attackedÂ from behind and knocked to the ground in April, said the brochures will help spur more reporting of such incidents.
Chinatown has seen a decrease in trafficÂ amid anti-Asian rhetoric, said Oakland City Councilwoman Sheng Thao. “People are fearful of walking the street.â
Gov. Gavin Newsom said he is seeking $300 million to address hate crimes, with one-third going to support victims and the remainder for community-based responses.
KQED’s Emily Hung contributed reporting to this post.
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