Patricia Roque and her family were victims of an alleged hate crime in May. She says the unprovoked attack started when a motorist bumped their car in a North Hollywood drive-thru and started making racial slurs and death threats.
“It’s very very difficult to get over or recover from this. It’s something that definitely haunts you for a long time even if you haven’t sustained physical injuries, but the trauma — it lingers,” Roque said.
After making multiple threats to kill Roque and her family, the man allegedly tried to open their car door, at which point Patricia’s dad tried to step in and things turned violent. Patricia’s mom intervened and was also attacked. The suspect was later arrested and faces battery charges, but the 19-year-old says she doesn’t go out alone anymore.
“Unless it’s with three or more people and we really have to be aware of our surroundings even if its in broad daylight,” Roque told KTLA.
Incidents like Patricia’s come on the heels of big increases in hate crimes last year.
California hate crime offenses increased over 42% in 2021 with double-digit percentage increases in crimes involving bias against race, sexual orientation and religion. Anti-Asian bias events were up more than 177%.
“Anti-Asian was our largest increase, but anti-Black and African American represent nearly half of all racially motivated crimes,” said one speaker at a presentation about hate crimes in California on Tuesday.
The California Department of Justice launched new programs in 2021 to try to better combat hate crimes. Today they are stressing the importance of reporting these incidents to law enforcement so that officials understand the scope of the problem and can better deploy resources.
Victims might not know that an incident they’ve experienced could be considered a hate crime or might not think anything will be done about it if they report it.
Experts say the pandemic may have played a role in the increase in these targeted attacks.
“The stress of the pandemic got people angry. People were online more and then when the gathering restrictions ended, it was a perfect storm,” said Brian Levin, a professor of criminal justice and the director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino.
So far this year, data show police in L.A. have seen hate crimes decline slightly, down 1%, but Levin says that isn’t worth celebrating.
“Even if we’re running stable with last year, that’s a decent increase from prior years,” Levin said.
As for Patricia Roque and her family, she worries incidents are underreported and says she can attest that it’s “definitely powerful for the victims to speak up.”