O.C. hate crimes fall; attacks based on sexual orientation rise
The number of reported hate crimes in Orange County fell by 21% last year, even though such crimes based on sexual orientation almost doubled, according to a report released Thursday.
The Orange County Human Relations Commission found that 61 hate crimes were reported to authorities in 2012, continuing a general downward trend since reported hate crimes peaked at 101 in 2006.
The most frequent target, the commission said, were blacks and people perceived to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
But while attacks on blacks dropped by nearly half to 13 last year, the number of cases based on sexual orientation climbed to 13 from 8 in 2011. Among others targeted were Jews (11 cases), Latinos (6) and Muslims (4), the report said.
“It’s very disturbing,” said Kevin O’Grady, executive director of the Center OC, a Santa Ana-based advocacy and service organization for the gay and lesbian community.
“A lot of it has to do with the very public debate that is going on nationally about LGBT civil rights,” notably marriage equality, O’Grady said. “The call for civil rights brings our supporters out, but it also brings the opponents out, including those on the darker side.”
The incidents tracked by the human relations commission included assaults and vandalism. Among the latter: Bricks thrown through the window of a Muslim family’s home; a flower pot hurled through a rabbi’s window; home-made acid bombs left in a black family’s driveway.
“It runs the spectrum,” said Rusty Kennedy, the commission’s executive director.
Nearly a third of all reported hate crimes were physical assaults, Kennedy said. Of those directed at gays and lesbians, more than half were.
“I’m pleased to see the overall downward trend of the last six or seven years,” Kennedy said. “But I’m alarmed by this substantial increase in [hate crimes against] the gay and lesbian community.”
Kennedy stressed that the 61 cases tracked by the commission understated the true number of hate crimes, which often go unreported.
O’Grady said that was particularly true in the gay and lesbian community.
“When something happens in the Jewish community … they immediately call the Anti-Defamation League.” O’Grady said. “There’s not that kind of [reporting] history in the LGBT community in Orange County. But that’s something we’re trying to change.”
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