LA County hate crimes rise to highest level in 19 years: report

Reported hate crimes in Los Angeles County rose to their highest level in 19 years in 2021, jumping 23% from the previous year, according to a report released Wednesday by the county Commission on Human Relations.

According to the report, there were 786 reported hate crimes in the county last year, up from 641 the prior year. The number is the highest it has been since 2002.

"The rise in hate crimes across Los Angeles County is deeply distressing," Board of Supervisors Chair Janice Hahn said in a statement. "Our most vulnerable neighbors are facing enough challenges, and now have to worry about a greater risk of being attacked or harassed because of who they are. That is unacceptable."

The number of hate crimes targeting Asian residents rose to 77, the highest number in at least 20 years, according to the report. In roughly one- fourth of the crimes targeting Asians, the victims were blamed for the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report also noted that 46% of racially based hate crimes targeted Black residents, although they only make up 9% of the overall population.

Crimes based on sexual orientation jumped by 15% year over year, with 85% of those crimes targeting gay men. There were 41 anti-transgender crimes, with 93% of those offenses classified as violent crimes, a rate exceeding those for racial, sexual-orientation and religious attacks.

Religion-based hate crimes jumped by 29%, with 74% of the offenses targeting Jews, according to the report.

Overall, the report noted that hate crimes have grown by 105% since falling to an all-time low in 2013.

"The year 2021 began with a violent assault on the U.S. Capitol, led in part by white nationalist groups," Robin Toma, the commission's executive director, said in a statement. "The shocking revolt was evidence of not only growing political polarization, but a country deeply divided along lines of race, religion, sexual orientation, and gender. Against this backdrop, hate crimes across the nation, including L.A. County, skyrocketed in 2021."

County officials acknowledged that some of the increase in hate crimes could be attributed to more robust reporting of such crimes, aided by the LA vs Hate initiative encouraging victims to come forward and offering them support. But they also noted that hate crimes likely still go unreported.

"The U.S. Justice Department has reported that nearly half of all violent hate crimes are not reported to law enforcement," according to the report. "We can expect that an even greater portion of hate incidents and nonviolent hate crimes are not reported."

Congressman Adam Schiff released the following statement in response, "I am deeply troubled by the unprecedented surge in hate crimes in Los Angeles County. I am also particularly disturbed that Jewish Angelenos were victims of an overwhelming number of the religiously-motivated hate crimes, especially as antisemitic vitriol has reached a fever pitch in recent weeks. As this report shows, there is no room for silence or ambivalence on these matters – we must all condemn bigotry and lies wherever we see them, because the consequences of inaction are too great to bear."