Hate crimes in
Los Angeles County soared last year to their highest mark
in five years even as overall crime dropped across the
region, according to a report released Thursday. The
annual report by the county's human relations
commission shows 763 hate crimes were reported in 2007, a
28% increase over 2006.
The numbers buck
last year's overall crime trends, which saw a decrease
of 6% in Los Angeles County and 5% in the city of Los
Angeles, the report notes.
said 111 hate crimes based on sexual orientation were
reported, a 9% increase from 2006, and more than 90% were
against gay men. The report said another 105 hate
crimes were based on religion -- a 17% increase -- and
nearly three quarters of them were anti-Jewish. The
most common hate crimes were those motivated by race, with
310 committed against black people and 125 against
Latinos. However, crimes in which anti-immigrant slurs
were used dropped slightly.
A majority of the
hate crimes involved vandalism and simple assault, but
aggravated assault was involved in 187 of them, a nearly 90%
increase over the year before.
attorney Connie Rice, who had not seen the report, said it
is important to remember that hate crimes represent only a
tiny percentage of overall crime numbers. She said the
increase is likely a reflection of economic times.
times gets tighter, hate-crime violence goes up,'' she
said, adding that child abuse and domestic violence often
increase for the same reason.
Gangs are a
factor in many hate crimes. In all, 16% of hate crimes last
year were committed by gang members. According to the
report, gang members committed 120 hate crimes last
year, an increase of 14% from 2006.
The extent to
which race is driving the area's gang crisis is a subject
of ongoing debate. Sheriff Lee Baca has said he considers it
a major factor, while Los Angeles police chief William
Bratton and other officials downplay suggestions of
The report states
that white supremacist activity continues to be
''surprisingly high,'' with 131 hate crimes showing evidence
of being committed by white racists.
The report notes
that friction between black and Latino residents
continues to be a major instigator of hate crimes. There
were 116 hate crimes unrelated to gangs that were
committed by Latinos against blacks and 26 such crimes
committed by blacks against Latinos.
the report is compiled from law enforcement agencies,
schools and universities, community organizations, and
directly from victims. The commission then decides
which incidents fit the legal definition of hate
crimes, so numbers in the report do not necessarily
reflect the outcome of criminal investigations.
According to the
U.S. Justice Department, for every hate crime that is
reported to police, as many as 28 are not reported, often
for fear of retaliation or concerns about talking to
The Los Angeles
County Commission on Human Relations has compiled an
annual hate crimes report since 1980. (Thomas Watkins, AP)