Editorial: Grim report on CA hate crimes

  • by BAR Editorial Board
  • Wednesday June 28, 2023
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Attorney General Rob Bonta. Photo: AP/file<br>
Attorney General Rob Bonta. Photo: AP/file

Two days after California Attorney General Rob Bonta rode in the San Francisco Pride parade to the cheers of thousands, he issued the California Department of Justice's annual hate crimes report. It is a grim reminder that hate is alive and well in the Golden State despite the many, many laws and policies in place to prevent such bias crimes. This year's report, which covers 2022, is the second one to show an alarming uptick in reported hate crimes against the LGBTQ community.

Anti-transgender bias events increased from 38 in 2021 to 59 in 2022, while reported events against gay men shot up from 211 in 2021 to 271 in 2022, a 28.4% increase. Anti-lesbian bias crimes rose from 27 in 2021 to 33 in 2022. In all, hate crime events motivated by sexual orientation bias increased 29% in 2022 from 303 in 2021 to 391 last year, according to the report.

Overall, reported hate crime events in the Golden State increased 20.2% over last year, the report stated. In 2021 there were a total of 1,763 reported events; that figure rose to 2,120 in 2022, according to the report. At a news conference June 27 to discuss the findings, Bonta was clear that these figures are likely lower than the reality, because people don't always feel comfortable coming forward.

"This report is a stark reminder that there is still much work to be done to combat hate in our state," Bonta noted.

During the news conference, Bonta talked about how he and his staff have convened roundtables up and down the state to discuss combating hate crimes and bias. Yet the problem persists, whether it be anti-LGBTQ, antisemitic, or anti-Black — all groups that saw increases in 2022. Surprisingly, anti-Asian hate, which had risen the past couple of years, saw a 43.3% decrease in 2022, from 247 reported events in 2021 to 140 last year. But again, there is likely underreporting in these numbers.

In the LGBTQ community, we've seen first hand how vile social media posts targeting community members lead to brawls at public meetings and other instances of hate, such as stealing and defacing Pride flags or attacking people. In fact, the report stated that there were 699 reported incidents of property destruction/vandalism in 2022 across the state.

The politics of polarization, which includes all the anti-LGBTQ bills and laws being passed and signed in red states, have found their way to California in the shape of physical attacks, intimidation, theft, and many other types of crimes.

If there's some good news coming out of Bonta's report, it's that prosecutors are taking hate crimes more seriously. The number of hate crimes referred for prosecution to district attorneys or elected city attorneys last year was 647, an increase of 5.9% from the 611 in 2021. Of those, 43.4% resulted in hate crime convictions; 45.9% resulted in other convictions, and 10.7% were not convicted.

There's an anti-LGBTQ hate crimes case being prosecuted now in San Francisco after a man allegedly attacked another man and his partner in the Castro neighborhood earlier this month. As we've reported, defendant Muhammed Abdullah has pleaded not guilty, but testimony at his recent preliminary hearing revealed evidence of bias against the LGBTQ community, the judge ruled in ordering him to stand trial. We're glad the district attorney's office is prosecuting the case and extremely grateful that the victims came forward and reported the incident.

Reporting is the key in these cases, as is the necessity for the alleged perpetrator to utter some type of discriminatory remark, as was the case in San Francisco, according to testimony. Too often, perpetrators will take some action against someone but not say a word, making it extremely difficult to prosecute. Regardless, it's critical that members of the LGBTQ community, and members of other vulnerable communities report these incidents when they happen.

Bonta stated that he has issued an updated law enforcement bulletin to all DAs, police chiefs, sheriffs, and state law enforcement agencies with a summary of the multiple California criminal laws that prohibit hate crimes or provide enhanced penalties for specified hate-related acts, as well as guidance related to the investigation and prosecution of these crimes. People reporting hate events is the first step — law enforcement must continue to follow up with investigating and prosecuting the cases if warranted.

Pride Month may be coming to a close but that doesn't mean hate crimes will subside. As long as this toxic environment continues to flourish — with politicians and other leaders spewing hate and disinformation, people will act on it, for whatever demented reason. We must stand in solidarity with religious groups and other minority communities to fight this hate.

The State of California offers help for victims or witnesses to a hate crime or hate incident. This resource is supported in whole or in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.

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