Hate crimes reported in Los Angeles County last year reached their highest level in nearly a decade, including two deadly shootings targeting African Americans in the South Los Angeles area.
The 521 cases mark the fifth year in a row the number of hate crimes has gone up in the county — a steady increase that comes even as the state saw an overall dip of 2.5% in 2018, according to a report released Wednesday by the L.A. County Commission on Human Relations. Among those most targeted were African Americans, the LGBTQ community, Jews and Latinos.
The uptick was 2.4% from 2017, when 508 cases were reported. It’s the highest number since 2009.
Crimes against Latinos rose for the fourth year in a row — increasing by 18% from the year prior. More than half of those cases involved anti-immigrant sentiments, a number that also increased in 2018.
Meanwhile, African Americans make up just 9% of the county population but make up about half of the victims involved in hate crimes reported, said Robin Toma, executive director of the commission, which compiles the report each year.
But authorities noted the highest increase in hate crimes were committed against members of the LGBTQ community, with gay men targeted most often. Rates of those crimes were higher than others motivated by race or religion.
However, the report stated crimes involving transgender individuals went down 26% in 2018 following two straight years of record-breaking numbers. Still, those crimes were most the violent of any category — an estimated 92% of cases involved violence.
Eighty-two percent of all homophobic crimes were violent in nature. Authorities said African Americans were disproportionately represented in these cases and those against transgender individuals.
Hate crimes committed on the basis of religion declined by 4% but the Jewish faith continues to be the most targeted. The majority of these cases were nonviolent crimes against property, Toma said.
A bit of good news authorities found “surprising,” Toma said, was a decline in the number of crimes linked to white supremacist ideology. That number fell 11% in 2017 and another 10% in 2018.
Among the most notable changes from years past is the rise in violent hate crimes countywide. Just 56% of such crimes were violent in 2017 but that number grew to 64% in 2018.
According to Toma, the most serious case of violence were a series of shootings in the South Los Angeles area targeting African Americans. Daniel Martinez of Inglewood allegedly killed two men and wounded others in the shootings last summer.
He continues to be prosecuted in the case.
Reported hate crimes rose in the 1990s after a state law passed in 1989 began mandating that law enforcement record and report them, according to county officials. Since 1998, cases peaked in 2001 with 1,031 reported.
From there, the crimes have declined overall until rising slightly in more recent years. Most committed last year were in the metro region spanning from Boyle Heights to West Hollywood.
“Just because you look different, dress different or maybe have an accent should not be the basis for someone to hate you and hurt you and your family,” L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis upon the release of the annual report.