A new report detailing the statistics for hate crimes in 2017 released Monday by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, shows that there were 1,093 reported hate crimes in California in 2017, a 17.4% increase over the previous year. According to the report, hate crimes have increased annually since 2014, jumping roughly 44% over the three-year span.
Hate crimes targeting victims based on race, sexual orientation and religion all increased sharply. Greater than half of the hate crimes reported in 2017 involved racial bias, and about 27% involved hostility toward black people.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino, said changing demographics in California and the increased presence of organized hate groups in the state have combined to drive up hate crimes in the state in recent years.
“I think people, particularly with bigots, they are now more emboldened and we are seeing this across a spectrum of data points,” Levin said. “If you look at bigoted social media posts, if you look at the number of white nationalist rallies across the nation and in California.”
The Center had earlier published a report in May of this year that studied hate crimes across the U.S. in 38 jurisdictions, including the three largest urban areas in the Golden State of San Jose, Los Angeles, and San Diego.
According to the Times, hate crimes had been trending downward in California for years, records show. Reported hate crimes in the state decreased every year from 2007 to 2014, reaching a low of 758 alleged incidents in California, according to the attorney general’s report.
The report did not indicate a large increase in any particular part of the state. Hate crimes in Los Angeles jumped slightly, from 227 reported incidents in 2016 to 263 last year. San Jose saw the number of reported hate crimes in the city more than double, from 19 in 2016 to 45 last year.
Levin told the Times that increased attention to the issue of hate crimes may have also played a role in the increase, as both victims and police departments are more cognizant of bias attacks than they may have been in past years.
However, the Times also noted that the report, which relies on reporting from local police departments, may not even capture the entire increase. Earlier this year, a state audit found several large law enforcement agencies in California — including the Los Angeles Police and Orange County Sheriff’s departments were not properly tracking hate crimes.
Reporting by The Los Angeles Times, the staff of the Los Angeles Blade, & wire service reports