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L.A. sees surge in hate crimes during first half of 2017, data show

L.A. sees surge in hate crimes during first half of 2017, data show
Many protests after Donald Trump's election have focused on rebutting a culture of racism that critics say he helped foster. Law enforcement officials now are facing heightened concerns about hate crimes. (Associated Press)

The number of hate crimes in Los Angeles and other major cities rose in the first half of 2017 amid more polarized politics and protests, according to new data.

The Los Angeles Police Department documented a 12.6% increase in hate crimes in the first half of 2017, 161 compared to 143 in the same period last year. The information was collected by Cal State San Bernardino's Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.

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The LAPD on Friday provided The Times with data confirming the increase in the number of hate crimes.

Violent crimes motivated by hate climbed from 24 to 36 for the first six months in Los Angeles. Much of the rise in violent crime was driven by a jump in aggravated assaults — with an additional 10 motivated attacks through July 31, according to the data. Los Angeles recorded a 15% increase in 2016, with 230 such crimes, the highest number in the city since 2008.

The LAPD and other agencies across California have been stepping up hate crime investigations in recent months, setting up task forces and investigating not only crimes but "hate speech."

The rise in biased incidents has been a source of intense debate across the country since Donald Trump rose to the front of a crowded GOP field of presidential candidates last year, and some critics think his ascension to the presidency has emboldened those who hold anti-Muslim or white supremacist views.

Of the six largest cities in the nation — New York, L.A., Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia and Phoenix — all except Houston saw their number of hate crimes climb in the first half of 2017, the Cal State San Bernardino numbers show.

New York's number of hate crimes escalated 28.4% through Aug. 20, compared with the same period in 2016.

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The latest reports come in the wake of violent clashes at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. Two planned rallies in the Bay Area could bring clashes Saturday between the far-right and anti-fascist activists.

Brian Levin, director of Cal State San Bernardino, said such conflicts are escalating in 2017 across California. His center tracked 13 events with injury, arrests, property damage or significant aggressive physical disruption of lawful public gatherings in 2016. By comparison, he said, there have been 14 violent protests or clashes already this year.

"It appears that bigots have become emboldened in the state, not only to commit more violence, but to publicly promote white nationalism," Levin said.

In addition hate crimes in 2017 are up in every major California city, while in Los Angeles in particular, the most violent type of hate crimes are up 50%, continuing a trend from the prior year.

A recent report from California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra found 931 hate incidents statewide in 2016, an 11.2% increase over 2015.

More than half of those incidents involved bias based on race, ethnicity or national origin. The second most common incidents were based on sexual orientation. Race-based hate crimes jumped 21.3%, the report said.

Twitter: @lacrimes

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