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Volume 7, Issue 78  |  September 30, 2022


Hate incidents overall are still rising in OC, anti-LGBTQ and anti-AAPI see notable increases

By SARA HALL

Hate incidents are still on the rise in Orange County, according to a recently released report, and authorities urge residents to report incidents to help document and identify patterns and problems.

The Orange County Human Relations Commission published the 2021 OC Hate Crimes Report on Thursday (Sept. 15) and hosted a virtual meeting to present and discuss the data. 

The key takeaway from the 2021 report: While the total number of hate crimes (involving criminal acts like vandalism or violence) slightly decreased compared to 2020, the number of hate incidents (motivated by bias-motivated hate but which, for one or more reasons, is not a crime) increased countywide last year, resulting in a slight overall rise and continuing the years-long upward trend.

There were 301 hate incidents and 97 hate crimes reported in Orange County in 2021. It’s an overall increase of 6% from 2020 when 112 hate crimes and 263 hate incidents were reported. Specifically, it’s a 13% decrease in hate crimes and a 14% increase in hate incidents. 

Other important points to note from the report: There were significant increases in the number of hate crimes and/or incidents motivated by sexual orientation bias as well as anti-Asian/Pacific Islander hate crimes and incidents.

There were 22 reported hate crimes in 2021 motivated by sexual orientation bias, an 83% increase from 2020.

About 60% of hate crimes and incidents reported were motivated by race/ethnicity/national origin bias. More specifically, hate incidents were primarily motivated by anti-Asian/Pacific Islander (51%), antisemitic (26%) and anti-Black (8%) bias.

The report noted an increase in anti-Asian/Pacific Islander hate crimes: 10 were reported in 2021, a 43% increase from 2020; and hate incidents, 153 reported in 2021, a 164% increase from 2020.

According to a month-by-month graph, there was a spike in bias-motivated hate incidents in April 2021, when the reports more than doubled. The most common type of hate incident was verbal harassment. 

To put the numbers into perspective during Thursday’s webinar, Hate Crime Prevention Coordinator Sara Sheikh-Arvizu shared examples of two hate crimes that occurred in 2021: Scratching derogatory anti-LGBTQ words onto a vehicle and cutting the internet cable; and a hand-written letter, reported as anti-AAPI hate mail/threat. 

The letter noted that there was “one less Asian to put up with in our community” after someone had left the neighborhood and claimed “you frickin’ Asians are taking over our American community. It is not resting well with all and everybody who lives here – true statement!!!”

The author of the letter threatened the recipient to “watch out” and to “pack your bags and go back to your country where you belong.”

“It’s hard for me to just read that letter,” Sheikh-Arvizu said.

Bias-motivated hate is deeply rooted and the effects are deeply experienced, she noted. 

Sheikh-Arvizu also shared an example of a hate incident that occurred last April when antisemitic propaganda from an organization connected to the Klu Klux Klan was distributed to residents in Huntington Beach. The incident happened just a week after similar flyers were distributed to homes in Newport Heights on March 28. The flyers appeared to be from a group identifying themselves as the “Loyal White Knights” of the KKK. A 24/7 hotline number was listed and a website that encourages “white people to stand up for their heritage.”

“Being a victim of a hate incident can encompass many emotions: Terror – as was experienced here – fear, frustration, surprise, anxiety,” Sheikh-Arvizu noted. 

Hate incidents overall are still rising Cool 2 Be Kind rally

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A Cool 2 Be Kind rally in 2021

Jo-Anne Matsuba, chair of the OCHR Commission, wrote in the report that the landscape continues to shift due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“As we attempt to emerge from the ashes, there is one other reality that begins to emerge before us – hate-motivated behavior and incidents continue to increase at a rapid pace,” she wrote. “The unimaginable has already and continues to happen – we’ve lost lives at the hands of hate. The question remains – what are we going to do about it?”

Matsuba noted that hate activity has steadily increased in Orange County, a 424% increase compared to 10 years ago and 165% increase compared to 2017. 

The commission hosted several community forums last year to hear the stories, challenges and needs of communities frequently targeted by hate. As a result of that work, they received a unanimous vote from the OC Board of Supervisors in December 2021 for a $1 million proposal to expand their anti-hate efforts,

The expansion efforts focus on:

–Expanding language accessibility and ways people can report bias-motivated hate.

–Creating a comprehensive service provider network to improve and expand support services for victims of hate.

–Launching a multicultural, multilingual and diverse education/awareness campaign for all of Orange County.

The featured speakers during the webinar were Irvine Police Department Chief Michael Kent, Deputy District Attorney in the Hate Crimes Unit of OCDA Billy Ha and 211OC Community Programs Director Amy Arambulo.

All three emphasized the importance of reporting any and all incidents to authorities.

Although it’s not a criminal act, it’s still important to document hate incidents in the community, Kent said. They want to empower residents to feel safe coming forward and feel comfortable in their own community, he added.

“You have to send a strong message that hate, regardless of whether it’s an incident or crime, that there’s zero tolerance for that in our community,” Kent said. 

Documenting incidents also helps authorities identify patterns, groups, or individuals that terrorize the community, he explained.

“We don’t tolerate that here,” Kent said. “We do want to take action and we do want to draw a strong line in the sand.”

The experts also explained how hate crimes get prosecuted and the support victims can receive after reporting. 

The Orange County District Attorney’s office filed hate crime charges for 14 cases in 2021. The department created a special Hate Crimes Unit last year.

“No one is born into the world with hate in their heart; hate feeds off inaction and by looking the other way,” OCDA Todd Spitzer wrote in the report. “Here in Orange County, we refuse to look the other way. We refuse to let hate fester and grow and for people to be victimized because of how they look, who they love, or what they believe in.” 

As prosecutors and police officers, they are prosecuting “haters” to the fullest extent of the law, he added, and working on preventing potential victims from ever becoming victimized. The aim is to create a community where everyone can safely celebrate the diversity that is Orange County’s beauty, Spitzer said.

Many victims don’t know what to do or who to call or even worth reporting, Kent said. The significance of coming forward and reaching out is a crucial part of the process going forward, he added.

They need to engage all partners, including local law enforcement and community groups, as they move forward, Ha said. 

They also need to involve more of the community’s first responders, Arambulo added.

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