A new report on Wednesday showed that hate crimes in Los Angeles County increased by 15 percent during 2011.
The report by the L.A. County Commission on Human Relations said that for the past three years, hate crimes have been on the decline, and despite 2011's uptick – to 489, compared to 427 from the previous year – the total was still the second-lowest in the past 22 years.
Sixty percent of the year's 252 racially-motivated incidents targeted black people, while sexual orientation motivated one in four of the year's hate crimes. Another 18 percent targeted victims for religious reasons.
The state of California defines a hate crime as an incident that demonstrates bias, hatred or prejudice against a victim's gender, race, disability, religion or sexual orientation. The commission's report showed that all categories of hate crimes, with the exception of those motivated by disability, saw an increase last year.
In a statement, the commission's president, Kathy Feng, said 21 percent of hate crimes showed evidence of a white supremacist ideology, while 12 percent were committed by gang members. In most of those cases, Latino gangsters targeted black victims.
"This means that potentially a full third of hate crimes are committed by 'mission offenders' who believe they are part of a larger cause to terrorize entire communities," she said.
The largest numbers of hate crimes were concentrated in the San Fernando Valley, followed by the Metro region. South Los Angeles saw 46 hate crimes in 2011, giving it a rate of 4.3 hate crimes for every 100,000 residents. That gave it the fourth-highest hate crime rate out of the county's eight geographic regions.
While there were no hate-motivated murders in L.A. County in 2011, the year's single (known) incident of hate-fueled attempted murder took place on the southside, when three members of the Latino 38th Street gang shot at a group of black men several times, yelling racial slurs while they did so. No one was shot.
Some other findings from the report:
– About 50 percent of the 489 hate crimes were racially-motivated, with black folks being targeted most frequently.
– 71 percent of anti-gay crimes were violent, compared to those that were racially- (54 percent) or religiously-motived (20 percent).
– An overwhelming majority of religiously-motivated hate crimes (77 percent) were directed at Jewish people.
– 91 percent of the suspects were male.
– Hate crimes were most likely to occur in people's homes.
– Most racially-motivated hate crimes manifested in the form of vandalism, followed by assault and intimidation.
In its report, the commission included the sobering note that hate crimes occur up to 28 times more often than they're reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and are often underreported due to victims' fear of retaliation, unauthorized immigration status or lack of knowledge about the criminal justice system.
Photo by Editor B via Flickr Creative Commons.