Orange County saw a 14 percent rise in hate crime reports in 2011, with most targeting people for their race or religion.
The Human Relations Commission got only 64 hate crime reports last year in a county with a population of 3.2 million people. That’s not many, but Human Relations Commission director Rusty Kennedy says some of the trends are troubling.
The most substantial increase in hate crimes targeted Jews, from three hate crime reports in 2010 to eight in 2011. As they have for 20 years, African Americans reported the highest number hate crime incidents with 19, even though they make up only about 2 percent of Orange County’s population.
“I think today discrimination against African Americans still exists," says Kennedy. "And part of the reason that I think the County of Orange says, ‘We have a human relations commission and we document hate crime’ is expressly because we see that some minorities have a different day-to-day existence than the majority and it bears noticing."
"It bears documenting. It bears teaching about.”
The Human Relations Commission can’t point to specific reasons for the rise in hate crime reports. It relies on local police departments and community organizations to collect the data.
Kennedy says many hate crimes likely go unreported — and for a number of reasons: some hate crime victims worry about reprisals; others don’t know about the justice system — or don’t trust it.
The commission referred 27 hate crime reports to the Orange County District Attorney. In 10 cases, prosecutors secured guilty pleas.