Hate crimes rise 15 percent in LA with uptick in LGBT victims

Brenda Gazzar
LA Daily News
Apr 6, 2017

The city of Los Angeles experienced a 15 percent increase in hate crimes in 2016, along with a significant spike in attacks against the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities, according to data analyzed by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino.

The number of hate crimes rose from 200 in 2015 to 230 in 2016, the highest number of hate crimes seen in Los Angeles since 2008, said Brian Levin, the center’s director. But it’s well below the 559 hate crimes the city saw in 2001, the year of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, which was the highest number this century.

Levin said the surge in hate crimes is largely due to a spike in violent aggravated assaults, racially and ethnically motivated crimes and crimes against LGBT communities.

“Perhaps most disturbing is the surge in the most violent type of attacks, which are aggravated assaults,” Levin said. “Whether it’s the increase in aggravated assaults or criminal threats, it appears that assailants are emboldened.”

There was a nearly 64 percent increase in violent aggravated assaults from 22 to 36, according to Los Angeles Police Department data. Criminal threats rose 33 percent from 27 in 2015 to 36 last year.

There have been no homicides or rapes deemed to be hate crimes that were reported in the city in the last two years.

The data also showed a 25 percent increase in hate crimes against the LGBT community from 49 to 61. Hate crimes against transgender persons jumped from 2 in 2015 to 8 in 2016, according to the LAPD data.

“This is unfortunate because our study last year showed a significant increase nationwide in anti-transgender attacks that would appear to be continuing into the following year,” Levin said.

Such incidents, and particularly the killing of four transgender black women in the U.S. in the span of about a week in March of this year, are “worrisome,” he said.

There was also a 19 percent rise in racially and ethnically motivated crimes last year over the previous year.

African-Americans were targeted the most, with 54 victims reported last year, up from 48 the year before, according to the data.

Capt. William Hayes, commanding officer of LAPD’s Robbery Homicide Division that monitors hate crime incidents, noted that the most prevalent hate crime last year was vandalism, which made up nearly a third of all reported hate crimes in the city. That was followed by incidents of simple battery and then aggravated assaults and criminal threats. Advertisement

“Although the numbers are small, that someone would take out an act of violence or crime against an individual just because of a particular belief” or their gender or ethnicity “is always problematic,” he said.

Part of the increase in reported hate crimes is likely due to people feeling more comfortable to report them, Hayes said. He said that’s a result of outreach efforts that the department, other law enforcement agencies and nonprofits have been doing.

Craig Lally, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League union, said police officers are “greatly concerned” about the 69.5 percent spike in violent crime citywide since 2013.

“Every crime victim, regardless of motivation, deserves our protection and justice,” Lally said in a written statement. “That’s why it’s critical we get more police officers in our neighborhoods who can help reduce crime and keep our residents safe.”

One bright spot in the LAPD data was that religious hate crimes against Muslims and Jews declined last year. Those against Jews decreased from 46 to 37, while those against Muslims decreased from 9 to 5.

“Each city is its own story,” Levin explained. “While there are certain national trends, neighborhood conflicts, serial offenders, gang or hate group activity and demographic changes can influence numbers in a particular city.”