As hate crimes continue to rise, LAPD chief blames social media, Kanye West
Hate crime reports across Los Angeles are up 13% over last year's record-setting levels, according to LAPD Chief Michel Moore, who said he believes inflammatory rhetoric on social media was contributing to the increase.
The new statistics, presented at Tuesday's Police Commission meeting, showed that with less than two weeks left in the year the city will almost certainly top 2021's total of 615 reported hate crimes. That tally was the most among large U.S. metropolitan areas, and the third-highest annual total in any U.S. city since the 1970s.
So far in 2022, crimes against LGBTQ people have risen to 30 from 19 at this time last year, while those against Jewish people have jumped from 72 to 88. But as in other major cities, Black Angelenos remain the most targeted group, the department's figures show. The number of hate-related incidents involving Black residents jumped 36% to 279, according to the department's figures.
The only group to see a decrease in the number of attacks or other crimes was the city's Asian American and Pacific Islander subgroups, which were victimized in 20% fewer incidents compared with a year ago, when they experienced a sizable uptick in incidents. California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta referred to last year's numbers as “an epidemic of hate.”
"These are troubling numbers for L.A. as well as for the region," Moore said during his presentation to the commission.
The department deems a hate crime any criminal act motivated by gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion or disability.
Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino, said the most recent statistics put L.A. in line with other major cities across the U.S., which have seen their own increases in reported hate crimes. He said that a significant number of offenders in Los Angeles are people with mental health issues.
Later in Tuesday's meeting, Moore blamed the rise, in part, on the growth of racist and bigoted speech online — which often goes unchecked.
"As I talked to law enforcement professionals and educators on this issue, they believe one of the largest drivers is the expansion of social media and the lack of checks and balances because expression of hate and the fact that it has given individuals who would otherwise have no voice a tremendous platform," Moore said.
He singled out Kanye West, the performer who now goes by Ye and is facing a backlash to a recent series of antisemitic and conspiracy-filled rants.
"We see Kanye West and others that have gone to Twitter and other social media platforms and we've seen other platforms such as Parler that have been created solely ... for people with extremist views to have a platform," Moore said during Tuesday's meeting. "And that, I think, is dangerous."
Moore's comments came on the heels of a report last week by the county Commission on Human Relations that found that hate crimes surged countywide in 2021 to their highest level in two decades.
That report said the 786 victims of hate crimes last year marked a 23% increase over 2020. The crimes overwhelmingly included acts of violence, and more than half were spurred by racism. Black, Latino, Jewish and LGBTQ individuals were among the most-targeted groups, according to the report.
The FBI on Monday released its own annual roundup of hate crime statistics, showing a slight decline in such incidents in 2021 compared with the previous year. But the tally fails to offer an accurate national snapshot because it doesn't include data from a swath of policing agencies, including those in Los Angeles and New York.
The LAPD is in the midst of switching to a different crime-reporting system, a transition that won't be completed until early 2023, department officials said.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.