Group hosts "listening session" to address increase in crimes against Orange County African-Americans

Amidst an uptick in hate crimes against African-Americans in Orange County, the OC Human Relations Commission is inviting members of the community to take part in a “listening session” Saturday.

More hate crimes have been reported recently, but the many incidents that go unreported are what trouble Rusty Kennedy, the commission’s Executive Director.

“In our community some of our neighbors are being treated in ways that are unimaginable if it never happens to you, and we need to be aware of that,” said Kennedy.

In October, Kennedy got a call from an African-American family in Yorba Linda who were fleeing the community after someone shattered the windows of their home with rocks, shot acid pellets at the house, slashed their car tires, and yelled racial slurs at them.

“Those crimes were not documented as hate crimes so they didn’t show up in our annual hate crime report, a hate crime report that already showed African-Americans as the most frequently targeted victims of hate crimes in Orange County,” said Kennedy.

As Orange County has become so much more diverse over the years, the percentage of African-Americans has stayed at just 2 percent of the population.

Since sharing what happened to the Yorba Linda family, Kennedy has heard more troubling stories.

This week, an African-American woman in Rossmoor found “bottle bombs” on her lawn. They contained a simple yet destructive mix of household chemicals.

Investigator Kent McBride, of the OC Sheriff's Department bomb squad, calls the incident “very serious,” but he hasn't found evidence of a hate crime.

“It’s hard to judge intent with just one incident and nothing more than those bottle bombs there,” said McBride.

The Human’s Relations Commission standard for a hate crime is very different than the Sheriff’s Department and Kennedy has little doubt the woman was racially targeted.

“This victim in Rossmoor feels she was picked on because she was African-American,” said Kennedy.

He hopes more victims will come forward at the first in a series of “listening sessions” Saturday.

It gets underway at 9:00 a.m. at the Christ Our Redeemer Church in Irvine. 

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