Hate crimes drop by 6 percent last year in Los Angeles County

Erika Aguilar/KPCC

Sabel Samone was attacked in April by a man who asked her if she was "a man, or a woman, or what?" Two men pulled off the attacked after he repeatedly punched in Samone the face while calling out his gang name.

Hate crimes in Los Angeles County fell by 6 percent in 2012 compared to the previous year, but the data show African-Americans continue to be targeted, as well as gay, lesbian and transgender people, according to a report released by the county.

The L.A. County Commission on Human Relations released its annual hate crime report on Wednesday. It showed that in 2011 there were 489 hate crimes compared to 462 in 2012, marking a 6 percent decline and continuing a downward trend that began in 2007.

“This year’s is the second lowest total reported in 23 years,” said Robin Toma, executive director of the county’s Human Relations Commission.

County officials attributed the low number of hate crimes to federal and local law enforcement agencies that have focused crime suppression on gangs that have a history of committing racially-motivated crimes.

Also, other ethnic groups (ex. non-specific Middle Easterner, Armenian, White, Asian/Pacific Islander, Chinese) saw decreases in hate crimes. Plus religious hate crimes declined by 4 percent, mostly because the number of vandalism with anti-religious messages decreased. The combination accounts for the 6 percent decline. 

The report also states that crimes against Latnos, although saw a slight increase from 2011 to 2012, but have been in a sharp decline since 2008.

Drawing from hate crime data beginning in 2007, commission staff learned that the neighborhoods of Pasadena-Altadena, Monrovia-Duarte, Florence-Firestone and the Harbor Gateway area of South L.A. suffered high levels of racial gang violence. Toma said after implementing mentoring and after-school programs with gang interventionists, all of these areas experienced a decrease in racial hate crime and tension.

“But certain groups face especially high rates of victimization,” Toma said.

African-Americans, gays and lesbians, Jews and Latinos made up 86 percent of all reported hate crimes last year and changed little from 2011. The report highlighted the persistent number of anti-black crimes committed by Latino gang members.

“This kind of warfare between gangs is another indicative example of how manifested hate goes further to create violence and murder,” said L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca.

According to the report, blacks were the targets in 75 percent of the 61 reported hate crimes in 2012 in which the suspects were gang members.

Another group that feels the brunt of hate crimes is gay, lesbian and transgender people. Nearly a third of the hate crimes reported last year, 28 percent, were attacks on people based on their sexual orientation. Officials added that the majority of them were violent attacks.

Sabel Samone was assaulted in April while shopping in East Hollywood. A man asked if she was a man or woman, then punched her repeatedly even as she fell to the ground. Two men pulled the suspect off her as he yelled out his gang name.

“I don’t think that I should be judged because I live my life differently from you," she said. "The last I [looked], we all came from different cultures and backgrounds."

The report also showed that a number of hate crimes took place in what the commission calls the "metro region" of the county, broadly described as the area between West Hollywood and Boyle Heights. After that, it was the San Fernando Valley — but when population size is considered, the Antelope Valley tied the metro region for the highest rate of hate crimes.

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