LGBTQ Agenda: CA anti-gay hate crimes see dramatic increase, AG's report says

  • by Eric Burkett, Assistant Editor
  • Tuesday June 28, 2022
Share this Post:
California Attorney General Rob Bonta. Photo: Courtesy CA DOJ
California Attorney General Rob Bonta. Photo: Courtesy CA DOJ

Hate crimes in California are at their highest level in more than 20 years, including bias attacks against the LGBTQ community, state Attorney General Rob Bonta said during a news conference June 28.

Bonta released his office's report for 2021, which included some startling figures. Hate crime events against members of the LGBTQ community increased 47.8% from 205 incidents in 2020, to 303 in 2021.

The attorney general noted that the state's Black community is the most heavily impacted but numbers were up for many other groups.

"Today's report undeniably shows that the epidemic of hate we saw spurred on during the pandemic remains a clear and present threat," said the attorney general, referring to COVID. "In fact, reported hate crime has reached a level we haven't seen in California since the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11."

Bonta called the increase "a grim reality."

In California, hate crimes are defined as crimes "against a person, group, or property motivated by the victim's real or perceived protected social group."

Overall hate crimes reported in the state increased 32.6% in the year between 2020 and 2021, the report states, with hate crimes against Black people still the most prevalent. Those numbers increased 12.5% from 456 reported incidents in 2020 to 513 in 2021. Hate crimes against Asians "increased dramatically" from 89 in 2020 to 247 in 2021, an increase of 177.5%.

Anti-LGBTQ hate

Broken down, anti-LGBTQ crimes looked like this: anti-gay male bias events rose from 162 in 2020 to 211 in 2021, an increase of 30.2%; anti-homosexual bias events rose from 21 in 2020 to 61 in 2021; and anti-lesbian bias events rose from 18 in 2020 to 27 in 2021.

There were a couple of somewhat brighter figures, relatively speaking: reported anti-transgender bias events fell, from 54 in 2020 to 38 in 2021, a decrease of 29.6%. Reported hate crime events involving gender bias went down from 62 in 2020 to 54 in 2021, a decrease of 12.9%.

But figures for other groups were disheartening, Bonta said.

"Anti-Hispanic or Latino bias events increased 29.6% from 152 in 2020 to 197 in 2021," according to the report. "Among hate crime events involving a religious bias, anti-Jewish bias events were the most prevalent and increased 32.2% from 115 in 2020 to 152 in in 2021."

Nationally, as well, hate crimes are on the rise. With the rise of the COVID pandemic in 2020, figures for those hate crimes rose as well.

"The Federal Bureau of Investigation's 2020 FBI Hate Crime Statistics revealed that the number of reported hate crimes in the United States rose in 2020 to the highest level in 12 years," according to a report by the U.S. Department of Justice. "The 2020 FBI hate crimes data, which is based on reports from 15,138 law enforcement agencies, recorded 8,263 hate crimes involving 11,129 offenses."

Attacks on people for their perceived sexual orientation accounted for 13% of hate crimes committed in 2020, the DOJ report said.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the rise in hate crimes in California has been keeping prosecutors busy.

From 2020 to 2021, the number of cases filed for prosecution by district attorneys and elected city attorneys involving hate crime charges in California increased by 30.1% and of the 610 hate crimes reported as referred for prosecution, 411 cases were filed by district attorneys and elected city attorneys for prosecution. Of the 411 cases that were filed for prosecution, 285 were filed as hate crimes and 126 were filed as non-bias motivated crimes, the report said.

In response to these figures, Bonta announced the creation of a statewide hate crime coordinator position within the California Department of Justice's Criminal Law Division "in order to further assist state and local law enforcement efforts to combat hate crime."

SF numbers

In response to a request for comment, San Francisco Police Department public information officer Kathryn Winters referred the paper to figures the agency released in January that show the city has proved to be no exception to these rising numbers, as the B.A.R. previously reported. Hate crimes against LGBTQ San Franciscans increased 50%, from a low of just 10 incidents in 2020 to 15 in 2021. However, the 2020 figures reflected a decrease in reported incidents from 2019, from a high of 34 incidents to just 10 the following year.

Asian American and Pacific Islanders in the city, however, saw the most dramatic increase in bias incidents. From eight and nine incidents in 2019 and 2020 respectively, anti-AAPI attacks skyrocketed to 60 incidents in 2021, an increase of 567%. Bias incidents against the city's Jewish community saw an uptick, as well, a steady rise from 2 incidents in 2019, 5 in 2020, and 8 in 2021.

San Francisco's Black residents experienced the smallest rise in bias incidents, holding more or less steady with 14 in 2019, down to 11 in 2020, and up to 15 in 2021, a rise of 27% over the previous year. Although, as was noted earlier, Black Californians have had to deal consistently with the largest numbers of bias crimes over the years.

Both anti-Latinx and anti-Arab/Muslim bias incidents fell by 40 and 33 percentage points, respectively, from 2020 to 2021, although — compared with other groups — the numbers of those incidents were relatively few to begin with. There were two reported bias incidents directed against the Arab/Muslim communities and four against Latinx San Franciscans in 2021.

"The number of hate crimes targeting members of our AAPI communities is alarming, but it's important to remember that San Francisco police officers have made arrests in the majority of these cases," SFPD Chief William Scott said at the time. "In fact, one perpetrator investigated and arrested by our Taraval Neighborhood Team was charged with 31 hate crime enhancements alone — more than half of last year's cases. Hate crimes represent one of SFPD's highest clearance rates for any crime category, and we hope that sends a forceful message to would-be hate criminals considering any kind of bias-motivated attack in our city — San Francisco will hold you accountable."

LGBTQ Agenda is an online column that appears weekly. Got a tip on queer news? Contact Eric Burkett at [email protected]

The column will be off for the July 4 holiday and return July 12.

Updated, 6/29/22: This article has been updated with SF figures released earlier this year.

Help keep the Bay Area Reporter going in these tough times. To support local, independent, LGBTQ journalism, consider becoming a BAR member.