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Violent hate crimes in L.A. hit highest level in more than a decade; white supremacist acts jump 38%

Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch O'Farrell speaks during a press conference
L.A. Councilman Mitch O’Farrell speaks during a press conference held outside the LAPD Hollywood Station on Aug. 20 about an arrest in the robbery and assault of two transgender women in Hollywood on Aug. 17. The case was classified as a hate crime.
(Josie Norris/Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County reported the highest number of violent hate crimes last year in more than a decade, with white supremacist crimes jumping by 38%, while attacks on the transgender community surged 64%, according to a new report.

Of the 524 hate crimes reported in the county last year, 343 were of a violent nature, the largest number in this category since 2008, according to the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations 2019 annual report. There was one reported case of attempted murder.

Black individuals remained the most frequently targeted victims of hate, according to the report, which gathers data from law enforcement agencies, educational institutions and community-based organizations. Hate crimes can range from slurs against an individual of a targeted group to vandalism to disorderly conduct and violent assaults.

Black people were targeted in 47% of the racially motivated hate crimes in 2019 while constituting only 9% of the county’s population, said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

“For those who believe that racism is no longer a problem, I invite you to review the examples this report provides of these vile and cowardly crimes, more than 70% of which were classified as violent in nature,” Thomas said.

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Though the overall number of hate crimes was up only slightly from 523 the previous year, the increase continues a six-year upward trend. The overall rate of hate-motivated violence in 2019 increased from 61% of total hate crimes to 65%, the highest percentage reported since 2007.

By comparison, LAPD statistics showed hate crimes rose in Los Angeles for the fifth straight year in 2019, increasing 10.3% over the year before and reaching their highest level since 2002. A total of 322 hate crimes were reported last year — compared with 292 in 2018 — including 77 assaults. Blacks and the LGBTQ community were the most frequently targeted.

“It is troubling that hate crimes in L.A. County have been rising for six years in a row,” Robin Toma, LACCHR executive director, said of the commission’s report. “We also saw the highest rate of violence in 12 years.”

After declining for two years, white supremacist crimes jumped from 84 to 116, and accounted for 22% of all hate crimes, according to the report. Seven out of 10 white supremacist crimes involved vandalism and more than half targeted persons from the Jewish community.

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“Marginalized communities continue to be targeted and discriminated against,” said L.A. County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, noting the county launched the L.A. vs. Hate campaign to urge residents to stand against hate. “L.A. County must continue to combat racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, and white supremacy.”

But Solis said the 2019 report shows more needs to be done.

“We have to ensure that Los Angeles County is truly a place where everyone can be who they are without fear.”

Anti-transgender crimes increased from 25 to 41, the largest number ever reported. The rate of violence was the highest of any victim group at 92%, according to the commission, which has been gathering data since 1980. Crimes targeting gay men, lesbians, and other members of the LGBTQ community comprised nearly a fifth of all reported hate crimes, and four out of five of these crimes were violent.

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County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. a Democrat and LBGTQ political stalwart, blamed President Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric for inciting those who would commit hate crimes.

“The county cannot be fully insulated from the results of the torrent of hatred and intolerance that has emanated from the White House for four long years,” Kuehl said. “I am deeply saddened by this year’s report, including recording the largest number of anti-transgender hate crimes ever.”

When it comes to racially motivated crimes, Latinos were the most likely racial/ethnic group to be targeted, particularly for racial slurs, according to the report. Anti-immigrant slurs were used in 48% of anti-Latino attacks. Meanwhile, crimes targeting Asians and Pacific Islanders increased by 32% last year, and anti-Middle Eastern crimes rose from seven to 17.

Geographically, the largest number of hate crimes took place in the area that stretches from West Hollywood to Boyle Heights, followed by the San Fernando Valley region.


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