Hate crimes in Los Angeles this year could again set records, report finds

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LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 08: Tony Ding of San Gabriel, middle, is participating in a Youth Against Hate rally for a solidarity in light of anti-Asian violence and hate crimes on Saturday, May 8, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
Demonstrators gather at a Youth Against Hate rally in Los Angeles in May 2021. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Hate crimes in the city of Los Angeles are on pace to match or surpass last year's record-setting levels, according to a USC analysis.

The analysis found that hate crimes against Black, transgender and LGBTQ Angelenos this year were all up significantly compared with the first six months of 2021, according to an analysis of Los Angeles Police Department data by Crosstown, USC's nonprofit data-driven news outlet.

Hate crimes across the country and in California have been on the rise in recent years, led last year by an increase in Anti-Asian hate. This latest analysis from the first six months of the year in L.A. signals that hate crimes could again set records.

There were 596 hate crimes reported by LAPD in 2021, according to USC's analysis, but already by the end of June, 349 have been reported this year. During the same period last year, 299 had been reported. LAPD designates a hate crime as a criminal act targeting 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, cautioned against analyzing the raw data released by Los Angeles police — as USC did — calling that data "unfiltered," meaning it often can include double-counted cases if there were multiple victims or other issues that can cause slight differences in the final counts. Levin released data on hate crimes for the first half of 2022 in a recent report using data reviewed by the LAPD's Hate Crime Unit, which found that in L.A., they were on par with last year.

"If you’re flat [compared with] the highest year in 20 years, you’re still bad," Levin said. “Any way you slice it, there’s a lot of meanness in the pie."

Levin's report counted 302 hate crimes during the first half of 2022 — less than USC's count — compared with about 300 last year.

"Whether it’s flat or whether it’s gone up … oftentimes the data is really made in the second half [of the year],” Levin said. "If we break even with last year, it’s terrible."

Crimes against transgender and LGBTQ people were already significantly up compared to the first half of 2021, with 30 reported, compared to eight last year, per USC's analysis. Anti-Black crimes saw the other sharpest increase, up 15% over the first half of 2021, with more than 90 reported this year.

Anti-Asian crimes were down slightly, at 16 this year, compared with 23 from the first half of 2021.

Nearly 45% of the 349 hate crimes reported in L.A. during the first half of 2022 involved an assault, according to the USC analysis, and about one-sixth were recorded as vandalism or crime threats without a weapon.

Experts warn that hate crimes are often underreported for a variety of reasons, including fear of retaliation, deportation or mistrust in authorities.

Levin said he would expect hate crimes will further increase during the second half of 2022, given that elections have historically fueled divisive rhetoric, and prior years have almost always shown more hate crimes later in the year. Still, he said, that remains to be seen.

Either way, he called the high number of hate crimes coupled with a more frequent prevalence of violence "disturbing."

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.