Susannah Rosenblatt, Los Angeles Times, Dec. 15, 2006
Reported incidents of hate crimes in Los Angeles County increased for the first time in four years, while such incidents in schools have more than doubled from last year, according to a report released Thursday.
The 26% spike in reported countywide hate crimes last year was fueled primarily by a nearly 50% jump in racially motivated offenses, especially toward immigrants and between African Americans and Latinos, according to an annual analysis by the county Commission on Human Relations.
The report tracked hate crimes reported to law enforcement or other agencies, but did not address which ones led to criminal charges or arrests.
Conflicts between blacks and Latinos erupted on the streets, in jails and at schools, with school-based hate crimes soaring by 111%. Many of these incidents on or near campus occurred in South Los Angeles, the report said.
The rise in hate crimes reported across the county bucks state and national downward trends, the commission found. The city of Los Angeles also measured a roughly 10% dip in hate crimes, said Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger of the Los Angeles Police Department.
Yet the number of reported hate crimes recorded last year — 633 — is still the second-lowest number since 1990. The 2004 tally was 502 incidents.
Nearly two-thirds of incidents last year were racially motivated, with 15% caused by religious intolerance and 15% related to sexual orientation. Attacks related to sexual orientation dropped by about a quarter from last year.
Blacks were the most common victims of hate crimes in 2005, followed by Latinos; gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals; and Jews. Violence and vandalism were the most widespread offenses.
The commission’s report highlighted simmering tensions between blacks and Latinos: the majority of suspects in anti-black crimes were Latino and vice versa, according to the organization’s data. Hostilities sparked by heated debate regarding immigration could account in part for the increase in anti-Latino incidents, said Robin S. Toma, executive director of the commission.
The commission analyzed white supremacist crime for the first time and found 17% of hate crimes were perpetrated by such groups locally, compared with just 5% nationwide.
Toma also attributed gang-related hate crimes — 11% of the racially motivated attacks from last year — to a lack of opportunities for youth, struggling schools and scarce jobs. He said the bulk of these crimes occur in low socioeconomic groups.
The county commission defines hate crimes as offenses involving bias, hatred or prejudice based on a victim’s “real or perceived” race, religion, national origin, disability, gender or sexual orientation.
Two-thirds of the data came from the Los Angeles Police Department and the county Sheriff’s Department, with the rest provided by local police forces, school districts, community organizations and victims.
Hate crimes by motivation, 2005 Change % of total from 2004 Race/ethnicity/ national origin 64% + 46% Religion 15% + 25% Sexual orientation 15% - 27% Other/unknown 6% + 95% Source: Los Angeles County Commission of Human Relations