Hate crimes in the city of Los Angeles hit multi-year highs in 2016, according to an analysis released today by Cal State San Bernardino researchers, who pegged the overall increase at 15 percent.
The report by the university's Center on Hate & Extremism found that last year's increase to 230 hate crimes, from 200 in 2015, was driven in large part by a 64 percent surge in violent aggravated assaults, an 18.5 percent rise in racially motivated crimes and a 24.5 percent increase in crimes against the LGBGT community.
"LA is far off its record highs and certainly not near the number of hate crimes that we saw right after 9-11," said Brian Levin, director of the CSUSB center. "But it comes at a time when we're seeing a significant increase in crime generally in Los Angeles. How much of this increase is related to an atmosphere where crime is rising generally?"
At the same time, religious hate crimes against Jews and Muslims declined significantly in the city during the period, the researchers found. There have been no bias homicides reported by the Los Angeles Police Department in the last two years.
By comparison, aggravated assaults overall in the city during 2016 rose about 10 percent, and the number of robberies increased 13 percent.
"The city of Los Angeles prides itself on being a multicultural haven," said Dr. Kevin Grisham, the center's assistant director for research. "It's troubling to see significant increases in these crimes."
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Of the localities surveyed, Los Angeles had the third-largest number of hate crimes in the nation, with only New York and Boston reporting more, the researchers said. The three dozen reported aggravated assaults include physical attacks with a weapon or attacks capable of producing serious bodily injury.
Hate crimes are criminal acts motivated in significant part by the actual or perceived group characteristic of another such as race, religion and sexual orientation. For Los Angeles, the 2016 hate crime totals were the highest since 2008, when the city recorded 280 hate crimes. While 2016 marked the third annual consecutive increase, last year's totals are still far below various highs tallied in recent decades.
In 2001, the year of the 9/11 terror attacks, Los Angeles had 559 hate crimes, the highest number so far this century. In 1992, official data did not accurately include the 60-plus people killed and others injured in rioting following the state trial acquittal of the officers involved in the videotaped Rodney King police beating, according to the report. Levin said the majority of hate crimes remain unreported, some due to the controversy over immigration.
"We're worried that with the increase in attention paid to immigration issues, many victims will be hesitant to report hate crimes for fear of deportation," he said.
While Los Angeles had three straight years of rising hate crime, the nation has not seen consecutive increases since 2004.