When it comes to hate, as goes Los Angeles, so goes California?
Hate crime reports in the city of 4 million represented nearly a quarter of all reported hate crimes in the state last year, according to the state Department of Justice’s latest tally. About one-third of the 11 percent increase in California hate crimes from 2015 to 2016 came in the city.
Other large, racially diverse urban areas showed a similar trend, according to the state data. Dozens of hate crimes were reported in unincorporated Los Angeles County as well as in San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose and Riverside.
“California is an amplified version of what’s going on nationally,” said Professor Brian Levin, the director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino. “These increases, both in California and nationally, are being driven by the largest, most densely populated cities.”
In some rural parts of California, no hate crimes were reported in 2016: Alpine, Calaveras, Colusa, Del Norte, Glenn, Imperial, Inyo, Lassen, Madera, Mariposa, Modoc, Nevada, Plumas, Sierra, Siskiyou, Tehama, and Trinity counties. In addition, data filed by county prosecutors showed that 11 counties have not filed any hate crime-related charges since 2007.
There’s no clear explanation for the disparity. Demographic changes that provoke hate crimes tend to be more pronounced in urban areas. Larger, more urban police agencies could have more training and resources to target hate crimes, prompting more reports.
“Hate crime data collection is really uneven,” Levin said. “The issue is what’s going on in the rest of the places? Are they seeing declines, or are they not participating?”
Based on a center survey of 25 metropolitan areas, the number of hate crimes rose from 1,886 in 2015 to 1,988 in 2016. Complete U.S. numbers are scheduled to be released later this year.
According to the state Department of Justice, hate crime acts involve the intent to cause physical injury, emotional suffering, or property damage where there is a reasonable cause to believe that the crime was motivated by the victim’s race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or physical or mental disability.
Last year marked first time California has had back-to-back annual increases in reported hate crimes since the mid-1990s. Moreover, the statistics suggest a tie to politics – November had the most hate crime reports last year, 111, compared to 68 in November 2015.
In addition, there were significantly more hate crime reports in the second half of 2016, when the presidential race went into overdrive. Both halves of 2015 had roughly equal numbers of hate crime reports.
Actual hate crime numbers likely are significantly higher. The U.S. Department of Justice last week estimated that half of hate crimes are not reported to authorities. That under-reporting problem could get worse, Levin warned, as a result of federal immigration sweeps and other policy actions.
Data Tracker is a regular feature that breaks down the numbers behind today’s news. Explore more trends at sacbee.com/datatracker.