The number of hate crimes reported so far this year in Los Angeles has already surpassed any of the yearly totals since the city began making its data public more than a decade ago.
Through Nov. 21, the most recent date for which data is available, the Los Angeles Police Department has recorded 620 hate crimes, the most of any full year since at least 2010. Throughout all of 2021, there were 596 hate crimes reported. It marks the ninth consecutive year in which hate crimes have risen in the city.
The figures represent the type of spike that often accompanies the months around an election, when charged rhetoric can spill over into violence. Past years falling within the election cycle also saw a rise in hate crimes, according to Prof. Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.
“In 2016, November was the worst month of the year,” said Levin. “In 2018, another election year, it was October.”
Capri Maddox, the executive director of the Los Angeles Civil + Human Rights and Equity Department, noted that some political messaging either implicitly or explicitly targets groups that are frequently victims of hate-fueled attacks.
“The election cycle that just wrapped up had a lot of undertones and, maybe in more overt ways as well, discussions about the transgender community and the LGBTQ+ community. We believe that encourages some people that may have been dealing with mental illness to move in a direction of violence,” said Maddox, referencing the shooting that killed five people in an LGBTQ+ nightclub in Colorado.
Rising tide of anti-Black violence
Black Angelenos have suffered the greatest increase in hate crimes compared with any other group. There were 166 hate crimes that were motivated by anti-Black sentiment as of Nov. 21, a 34% increase from the same period last year.
Maddox said the rise in anti-Black hate crimes may be due in part to improved reporting since 2021. In recent years, the city has launched several initiatives and forums geared toward educating residents about different avenues for reporting hate crimes.
“I’m African American and our community has suffered these wrongs for far too long,” said Maddox. “We want to make sure that whether the reports come to the police or community center, or if people feel comfortable calling 311 or 211 versus 911 for non-emergency incidents, it is important for that information to be documented so that we are aware of it.”
MyLA311 and 211LA are services where residents can make requests for city services, or be connected with resources. While both services were originally intended for general requests and information, they have been expanded to connect residents to non-emergency police service. Officers reached through these lines still physically respond to calls and can record crime-related concerns.
Black people make up around 8% of the city’s population but were targeted in 27% of the hate crimes reported so far this year. The second-most targeted demographic were Latino residents, followed by gay men and Jewish people.
The LAPD defines a hate crime as any instance in which the victim of a criminal act is targeted based on gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion or disability. The department has a dedicated hate crime unit, and like the FBI, tracks 35 different bias-motivated offenses. Despite the rising numbers, hate crimes are believed to be widely under-reported, as some victims may be wary of interacting with law enforcement. A U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics survey found that fewer than half of all hate crimes were reported to police.
One of these crimes this year involved the aggravated assault of a 60-year-old Black man on Feb. 24 at a gas station on Washington Boulevard in the Pico-Union neighborhood. Police arrested the perpetrator, who allegedly wielded a knife.
Nazis on the 405
This year has seen some high-profile hate incidents, including in October when a group of people unfurled a banner from an overpass on the 405 freeway that read “Kanye Is Right,” referring to antisemitic comments and social media posts by the rapper Kanye West.
These types of hate incidents are protected by free speech laws and do not involve an actual criminal offense, though the LAPD does track them. The episode, which drew condemnation from L.A. Mayor Garcetti, District Attorney George Gascón and others, was perpetrated by a network of antisemitic conspiracy theorists.
The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism also recorded a spike in antisemitic hate crimes in New York City and Chicago, in addition to a national jump of 12% in overall hate crimes compared with last year.
So far this year, 72 of the hate crimes reported to the LAPD have targeted Jewish people; that is two more than during the same period in 2021. In 2018, there were 44 antisemitic hate crimes reported to the department.
Det. Orlando Martinez, who heads the LAPD’s hate crime unit, pointed out that the majority of hate crimes committed are committed by local residents.
“We don't have white power or white nationalist groups coming into the city and committing these crimes,” said Martinez. “You don't have very many outside groups coming in and doing these kinds of things. Most of the time it is resident-on-resident or visitor-on-visitor.”
Martinez said that the antisemitic freeway banner, allegedly perpetrated by a group with a base in Northern California, was an exception.
One group that saw a reduction in crimes, despite the election year, was Asian Angelenos. So far this year there have been 29 hate crimes attributed to anti-Asian bias, down from 40 during the same period in 2021. Attacks on people of Asian descent jumped after the onset of the pandemic, as figures including then-President Donald Trump used terms such as “kung flu” to implicitly blame Chinese people for the spread of COVID-19.
“We don't get very many Asian attacks that mention coronavirus anymore,” said Martinez, though he maintains it is an issue of concern. “Whereas during the first few years of the pandemic it was, ‘Why did your people do this? This is your fault.’ Now we're getting just the usual anti-Asian slurs.”
How we did it: We examined publicly available LAPD data on hate crimes and hate incidents from Jan. 1, 2010–Nov. 21, 2022. For neighborhood boundaries, we rely on the borders defined by the Los Angeles Times. Learn more about our data here.
LAPD data only reflects crimes that are reported to the department, not how many crimes actually occurred. In making our calculations, we rely on the data the LAPD makes publicly available. LAPD may update past crime reports with new information or recategorize past reports. Those revised reports do not always automatically become part of the public database.
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