Orange County struggles to curb rise in hate incidents

Homophobic slurs scratched on the hood of a car and a handwritten anti-Asian letter demanding that the person “go back to your country, where you belong”.

These are just a few examples of hate incidents across Orange County in 2021 as county officials and community leaders struggle to curb a nearly decade-long trend of rising reports of hate crimes and combined incidents.

The two examples were shared during a webinar hosted Thursday by the Orange Human Relations Commission, during the presentation of the county’s 2021 annual hate crime report.

Read it 2021 report here.

Norma Lopez, director of the commission, wrote in response to a reporter’s question during the webinar that the continued increase in hateful activity is very concerning.

“We hope this webinar and this information will spark conversations in different spaces across Orange County to really drive strategies that will help us address this issue. We hope to open some of these spaces in the future,” Lopez wrote.

This is the seventh consecutive year that the commission’s report has found an increase in the combined number of hate crimes and incidents, from 375 reported crimes and incidents in 2020 to 398 in 2021.

For the definition of the ratio of Hate crimes vs hate incidents, click here.

The upward trend started in 2015 after a downward trend ended in 2014.

[Read: Hate Increases in Orange County For 7th Straight Year, New Report Drops Today]

Data for the report comes from groups such as Stop AAPI Hate, the Anti-Defamation League OC and Long Beach Chapter, the LGBTQ Center OC, and local law enforcement agencies.

“It seems like most BIPOC – Indigenous Black people of color, LGBTQ people, and religious minority people in Orange County carry a tremendous burden of dehumanization, stress, and trauma,” said Sara Sheikh-Arizvu , Hate Crimes Prevention Coordinator for CO. Human Relations Council, during Thursday’s webinar.

The 2021 Hate Crimes Report at a Glance

Separately, there were 97 reported hate crimes and 301 reported hate incidents in Orange County in 2021, according to the report.

While this is a 13% decrease in hate crimes from the 112 reported in 2020, it is a 14% increase in hate incidents from the 263 reported in County County. ‘Orange in 2020.

But even with the overall decrease in hate crimes, there was an 83% increase in LGBTQ+ hate crimes and a 43% increase in crimes against the Asian American community in 2021, according to the commission.

Hate crimes and incidents against the Asian American community have been on the rise in OC, California and across the country since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For a while last year, events calling for an end to Asian hatred became routine in Orange County.

The commission’s report reflects a 164% increase in hate incidents against Asian Americans, from 76 incidents in 2020 to 153 in 2021 — the most of any racial group.

Meanwhile, 16 anti-black hate crimes were reported in 2021 — the most of any racial group, despite black people making up 2% of county residents. In 2020, there were 30 anti-Black hate crimes.

Protesters show up at a planned “White Lives Matter” rally in Orange County on April 11, 2021. Credit: JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

Sheikh-Arizu that more than half of reported hate crimes and incidents occur in schools, homes and public spaces.

The 2021 figures reflect a 165% increase in hate activity compared to reported data from 2017.

Meanwhile, hate incidents have more than tripled in the county since 2017

Since 2017, there has been a 5,000% increase in hate incidents toward Asian Americans and a 52% increase in hate incidents toward Black people.

The number of hate incidents against Latinos has doubled since 2017, and hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community have also increased by 2,100% since 2017, according to Sheikh-Arizvu.

There have been 26 times more anti-Semitic incidents in OC since 2017.

Meanwhile, a state attorney general report released earlier this year also shows a 33% increase in hate crimes across California in 2021 compared to 2020.

The state report shows a 61% increase in hate crimes in California over the past five years, while the Orange County Human Relations Report shows a 73% increase in hate crimes nationwide. local during the same period.

Read it Status report here.

Underreporting and how to report

The county’s report doesn’t show the true scale of the problem, anti-hate advocates say.

“According to the US Department of Justice, the National Crime Victimization Survey, hate crimes and incidents potentially occur 24 to 28 times more often than reported,” Sheikh-Arizu said.

She said reasons for not reporting include victims who don’t want to relive their trauma or feel their experiences are part of normal life.

Jesus Palapas, senior human relations specialist with the commission, said one of the main reasons for the under-reporting is the language barrier.

OC’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in December to approve a $1 million proposal from the Commission on Human Relations to expand language accessibility and ways to report hate, expand services support for victims and to launch a multilingual awareness campaign.

[Read: Orange County Human Relations Council Looks to Curb Rising Hate Crimes]

The initiative, called Hate Hurts Us All, allows people to report hate crimes via text, email or phone calls and in different languages ​​like Spanish, Vietnamese, Persian, Arabic, Korean, Chinese and Filipino.

Thursday’s webinar included a panel discussion moderated by Jennifer Wang, Co-Chair of the Orange County Human Relations Commission, featuring Irvine Police Chief Michael Kent, Assistant District Attorney Billy Ha with the DA Hate Crimes Unit and Amy Arambulo, Director of Community Programs at 211OC.

They all stressed the importance of reporting these crimes and incidents.

“There’s tremendous value in coming forward and a lot of that starts with the connection in the partnership you have with the community,” Kent said during Thursday’s webinar.

Ha said reporting such incidents is important because police departments and the district attorney’s office cannot investigate and prosecute hate crimes of which they are unaware.

“We really need a village to fight this in our county, in the state and in this country,” he said.

Ha said that when prosecuting a hate crime, the prosecutor’s office provides victims with an attorney to help them through the process.

Arambulo said 211OC is “the gateway” to reporting such crimes and incidents and that the organization helps people file a report and connects them with support service agencies like waymakers.

To report a hate incident to 211OC online, Click here.

In a statement Thursday, District Attorney Todd Spitzer said he would prosecute “haters” to the fullest extent of the law.

“Hate-motivated behavior and incidents in Orange County have been steadily increasing – increasing by 424% over the past 10 years. Hate crimes and hate-motivated incidents have increased by a combined 6% over to the previous year,” he said.

“It’s despicable.”

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC reporter and a body member of Report for America, an initiative of GroundTruth. Contact him at or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.


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