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L.A. Focus Launches 12-part Series on Alarming Rise in Hate Crimes

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Gerald Bell

In 2019, two men, Ceasar Savoc and Stephen Taubert—both white supremacists— were convicted in federal courts for threatening to kill Congresswoman Maxine Waters.

Taubert was found guilty by a federal grand jury after calling Waters’ Los Angeles office and stating, “I’m gonna be at every event that stupid f*ing ni***r b***h is at and I’m gonna kill that f*****g b***h and all you stupid f*ing n****s that work for her.”

Last March, a senior member of the Big Hazard street gang was sentenced to 192 months in federal prison for orchestrating and executing the nighttime firebombing of African-American families at the Ramona Gardens Housing Development in Boyle Heights in order to force the residents out of their homes.

In December, a federal court sentenced a California man to more than six years in prison for a hate crime for attacking a Black man in Santa Cruz, California. Using a nine-inch knife, the man slashed the victim on his head, chest, and stomach, while yelling racial slurs. It was the man’s fourth known attack against Black men.

This year, police in Palo Alto were investigating as a hate crime an incident where somebody changed the wording on a woman’s yard sign from “Black Lives Matter” to “Asian Lives Matter.”

Whether fueled by toxic and weaponized rhetoric, gentrification, online hate speech, turf wars, or the growing movement of White nationalism or the proliferation of hate in media coverage, it should come as little surprise that hate crimes are on the rise in Los Angeles. Last year, 596 hate crimes were documented in LA–the highest number ever reported. This year, from Jan. 1 to June 30, nearly 350 hate crimes were reported to the Los Angeles Police Department, a 16.7% increase from the first half of 2021, and more than double the equivalent period in 2020.

Brian Levin, Director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino, warned that a further increase of hate crimes could be coming to L.A., linking the claim to the approaching elections when divisive political rhetoric intensifies.

“If you take the last ten years of FBI data and you rank by quarter, the second half of the year is the one that has more hate crimes,” Levin said.

Blacks in Los Angeles have suffered more hate-motivated attacks than any other group in the first half of 2022 with 91 reported anti-Black or anti-African-American hate crimes, up 15.2% from the same period last year.

“We saw a reversal of a decline in anti-Black hate crimes in 2020,” said Levin. “It’s now gone back up.”

The LAPD defines a hate crime as any criminal act or attempted criminal act directed against a person based on actual or perceived race, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or gender. Hate crimes can include, but are not limited to threats of violence, injury (even if slight), and property damage. Nearly 45% of the reported 349 hate crimes during the first half of 2022 involved an assault.

The Southern Poverty Law Center  reported that 65 hate groups were tracked in California in 2021. Among them were American Front, American Freedom Party and the Proud Boys—who have 9 chapters. The SPLC further reported that over 400 verified bias-related incidents occurred within one week following the election of Donald Trump in 2016, and another 1,000 incidents happened one month after election day–a significant increase over previous months nationally.

The LAPD has long recognized the serious nature of crimes motivated by hatred and is one of the first law enforcement agencies in the nation to establish specialized procedures for the handling of hate crimes which can be prosecuted either as misdemeanors or felonies depending on the severity of the acts committed.

“All persons within the jurisdiction of this State have the right to be free from any violence, or intimidation by threat of violence, committed against their persons or property,” according to the LAPD website. “Anyone who violates the right is liable for each and every offense for the actual damages suffered by any person determined by a court of law.”

According to The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), there’s an overall increase in attacks involving religious bias that is closely associated with the overall 89.6% increase in California hate crimes over the past decade.

Groups like the ADL and LA vs Hate are stepping up to address the rising rate of hate crimes.

“These heinous acts of harassment, vandalism, and propaganda all cause a ripple effect,” said Jeffrey Abrams, regional director of ADL. “The perpetrators [are] seeking to instill fear among not just the Jewish community, but all minority and marginalized communities. And this we cannot, and will not, tolerate.”

This article is one in a twelve-part series to examine what is driving this rising trend of hate crimes and appropriate solutions to “stop the hate”.

“The Stop The Hate campaign is made possible with funding from the California State Library in partnership with the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs (CAPIAA). The views expressed in this series produced by L.A. Focus do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the CSL, CAPIAA or the California government. Learn more at capiaa.ca.gov/stop-the-hate”.


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