Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Making sense of the new hate crime numbers

A church sign in Los Angeles, January 2010
A church sign in Los Angeles, January 2010
Photo by seanbonner/Flickr (Creative Commons)

This week, both the FBI and the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations released reports on 2010 hate crimes statistics; a few months ago, the California Department of Justice released hate crime numbers for the state.

Going just by the headlines this week, the messages have been mixed. "Hate crimes drop to 21-year low in L.A. County," reads a headline today in the Los Angeles Times, while NBC Los Angeles' website displayed a more ominous sounding "Hispanics Top Target of Hate Crimes."

Which is it, bad news or good? A bit of both. While overall hate crimes in Los Angeles county have declined, down to 427 in 2010 from 593 in 2009, anti-Latino hate crimes within the county lines are up somewhat. This is reflected in the state numbers, which show the number of overall hate crimes in California staying fairly flat since 2009, but the number of anti-Latino crimes rising.

And the latter news, of course, is borne out in the new federal numbers, which show the number of hate crimes nationwide holding steady but anti-Latino hate crimes on the rise, and accounting for 66 percent of all ethnicity-related hate crime incidents in 2010. Here's a quick digest of the numbers reflecting anti-Latino and other hate crimes from all three reports:

The nation:

The FBI report charts a very slight increase in overall hate crimes between 2010 (6,628 incidents) and 2009 (6,604). Of these, hate crimes motivated by bias against a particular ethnicity or national origin were directed at 1,122 victims in 2010 - and of these, 66.6 percent were targeted at victims due to "anti-Hispanic bias."

Anti-Latino hate crimes went up (534 incidents in 2010 vs. 483 in 2009), as did anti-Islamic hate crimes (160 vs. 107) while incidents involving black victims declined (2,201 vs. 2,284). Hate crimes involving racial bias still account for almost half the reported offenses: Almost 48 percent involved race, 20 percent involved religion, 19 percent involved sexual orientation, and almost 13 percent involved a bias against "an ethnicity/national origin." A small number of hate crimes were directed at victims suffering a physical or mental disability.

While overall hate crimes held steady (an increase of just 0.6 percent between 2009 and 2010, seven incidents in all) anti-Latino hate crimes increased 46.9 percent in California, from 81 incidents in 2009 to 119 in 2010.

As anti-Latino hate crimes rose, anti-Jewish hate crimes decreased by 20 percent from the previous year, anti-black crimes decreased by 13.8 percent, and anti-gay crimes decreased by 10.8 percent. Still, hate crimes motivated by race and/or ethnicity topped the list, accounting for close to 60 percent of all incidents. While anti-black hate crimes decreased, they are still the most common hate crime in the state, accounting for "at least 26 percent of all hate crime events since 2001." The second-most common hate crimes involved sexual orientation bias, followed by religious bias. Among these, anti-Jewish hate crimes continue to be the most common.

Los Angeles County:
Hate crimes decreased in Los Angeles County for the third year in a row, reaching a 21-year-low. However, the majority (51 percent) continue to be based on race.

In contrast to decreases in reported hate crimes among other groups, hate crimes against Latinos rose seven percent between 2009 and 2010. The report points out, however, that anti-Latino hate crimes were down 58 percent the previous year, so "the 60 anti-Latino crimes reported in 2010 is significantly fewer than the number reported each year for most of the past decade."

Though anti-black hate crimes aren't up in the county, this continues to be the most targeted group, with 53 percent of the total incidents targeting black victims and 26 percent targeting Latinos. The report points out "a troubling phenomenon" of hate crimes between the two groups, with 59 percent of black victims targeted by Latino suspects, and 68 percent of Latino victims targeted by black suspects. Anti-gay crimes held steady, but were "more likely to be of a violent nature than either racial or religious crimes."

And while the number of anti-religious crimes in L.A. County has dropped, the report tracked an slight increase (five reported in 2010, vs. zero the previous year) in "hate crimes in which suspects called their victims 'terrorists' or in some other way blamed them for ongoing conflicts in the Middle East."

Corrected: Nationwide, hate crimes targeting black victims as documented in the FBI report declined (2,201 in 2010 vs. 2,284 in 2009), not the other way around.