Hate crimes decrease

LOS ANGELES — Religious hate crimes, including a tagging incident at Glendale's St. Peter Armenian Church, increased last year throughout Los Angeles County, according to a county report released Thursday.

Religion was the basis for the third-largest group of hate crimes reported in Los Angeles County in 2008, according to the county's Commission on Human Relations annual report. Hate crimes based on a person's race or sexual orientation made up the largest and second-largest groups, respectively.

“Hate doesn't have to lead to more hate,” said Robin Toma, the commission's executive director.

Hate crimes throughout the county that were motivated by religion increased from 105 in 2007 to 120 in 2008, according to the report.

In the area that includes Glendale, La Crescenta, La Cañada Flintridge and Burbank, there were 12 hate crimes last year. That was a steep drop from the 31 that occurred in 2007, a 61% decrease, said Marshall Wong, who helped author the commission's report.

One of the eight hate crimes that were reported in Burbank last year was the tagging of a Jewish temple, police Sgt. Thor Merich said. Vandals spray-painted a swastika on a temple wall, he said.

White supremacist activity grew from 131 in 2007 to 143 in 2008, according to the report. And crimes committed by white supremacists mostly targeted Jews.

Four of the eight hate crimes in Burbank were misdemeanor assaults, which resulted in arrests, he said.

Hate crimes against Armenians, blacks, whites, Asians, Middle-Easterners and transgender people decreased in 2008, according to the Commission on Human Relations report.

Hate crimes overall declined from 763 in 2007 to 728 in 2008 in Los Angeles County.

But the annual tally was the second largest since 2002, Toma said.

Hate crimes in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's jurisdictions dropped 25%, Sheriff Lee Baca said.

But crimes motivated by hate, especially ones committed by gangs, continue to exist.

“This is always troubling,” Baca said.

“We want to have none of this happen because all people are entitled to exercise who they are under the spirit of the American Constitution.”

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