The Network Against Hate Crime, a project of the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission, will hold a community training conference March 31 to raise awareness of hate crimes.
The conference at Cal State Los Angeles, the first ever by the network, was planned to increase the public's reporting of and raise community response to such crimes, which have been rising, said Reva M. Trevino, network liaison.
The commission defines a hate crime as one motivated by the victim's race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender or disability.
African Americans remain the group most targeted by perpetrators of hate crimes, while whites are the second most frequently targeted racial group, Trevino said. The network's annual report on hate crime will be released in two weeks.
Latinos and Asians, which include larger numbers of immigrants, have a lower incidence of reported hate crimes, which may result from their reluctance to approach authorities about incidents because of a fear of law enforcement or deportation, Trevino said.
"Oftentimes they are not aware of what is a hate crime, what can be done about it and don't want to jeopardize" their lives, Trevino said. "That's why community-based organizations have to become more active in this area."
Attorney Brian Levin, a noted scholar on hate crimes and legal director of the nonprofit Center for the Study of Ethnic and Racial Violence in Edgewater, Colo., cited several factors that lead to an increase in hate crimes.
He said people are seeing dramatic demographic shifts in their neighborhoods, exposing them to people of different backgrounds--a change especially apparent in California; jobs are more tenuous than a generation ago because of the shift to services in the economy; there is an increasing acceptance of violence as a means to settle disputes, particularly among youth, and the social and political climate is much more divisive than before.
"In the abstract, we're all very happy and wish the best for everyone," Levin said. "But in reality, we still identify with a certain group and we're dealing with stereotypes of other people."
Levin found that every jurisdiction throughout the country that collects monthly statistics reported either a record high or an increase over the previous month of hate crimes.
The conference will provide manuals and videotapes so representatives of community groups can in turn train others. Trevino said the network may also provide training to groups that request it.
The registration deadline for the conference is March 20 and cost is $25.
Information: (213) 974-7626.