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Hate Crimes In L.A. Hit Highest Mark Since 2008, With Marked Increase Against LGBT Community

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In 2016, Los Angeles saw 230 instances of hate crimes, the highest total the city has seen since 2008, says a recent report by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino, according to the L.A. Times.

The 230 tally is a marked increase from totals in 2015, when the city saw 200 hate crimes perpetrated. This accounts for an increase of 15%. Looking deeper into the figures, the center says that the 230 total includes a 64% surge in violent aggravated assaults, a 18.5% increase in racially motivated crimes, as well as a 24.5% rise in crimes against people from the LGBT communities. As defined in the report, hate crimes are "criminal acts motivated in significant part by the actual or perceived group characteristic of another such as race, religion and sexual orientation."

The center noted that, while other non-hate-related crimes saw a rise as well, those jumps weren't quite as high. Aggravated assaults in the city, for example, rose about 10%, and robberies took a 13% hike.

Breaking down the numbers, the study reports that African Americans were the biggest targets for hate crimes last year. In 2016 there were 54 cases of anti-black hate crimes. Hispanics were second, with 25 cases. There were only 2 instances of a hate crime perpetrated against Middle Easterners, while there were 5 reported in 2015. In the context of religion, Jews were by far the biggest targets, with 37 cases of anti-Jewish hate crimes reported. While blacks and Hispanics saw a modest increase of hate crimes perpetrated against them, and while anti-Jewish hate crimes actually fell when compared to figures from 2015, there was a sharp rise in hate actions perpetrated against gay males; there were 42 reported cases in 2016, compared to 24 in 2015. There were 9 hate crimes committed against gay females in 2016, a increase from 3 in 2015.

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Looking at it from a national level, there was a 10% increase in hate crimes among 16 of the U.S.'s most populated cities, less than the increase seen in L.A, the second most populous city in the nation. New York City and Chicago (the first and third most populous cities, respectively) saw larger leaps in hate crimes when compared to L.A., however.

The report from Cal State San Bernardino adds more evidence to a troubling trend that has been happening as of late; in 2016, the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations reported a spike in hate crimes committed against African Americans, Latinos, Jews and transgender women in 2015. The commission said that, in total, there was a 24% jump in hate crimes in the county.

"The over-representation of African Americans as victims of racial hate crimes, the high rates of violence experienced by LGBT victims and the spike in anti-Muslim and Middle Eastern hate crimes at the end of 2015 are reminders that our work is far from over," Commission President Isabelle Gunning said in a statement.

Down in Orange County, the Orange County Human Relations Commission reported in 2016 that hate incidents against Muslims (and those perceived to be Muslim) had surged from 14 in 2014 to 43 in 2015. It should be noted that there's a difference between a hate crime and a hate incident—while the former involves a crime, the latter involves an action that is not, technically speaking, illegal, but still espouses bias against a person based on race, religion and/or sexual orientation. A hate incident may involve, for instance, someone passing out flyers containing racist text.

In late 2016, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer, LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck and Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey held a press conference to say that city leaders will adopt a swifter response to reported hate crimes. Beck said that the LAPD had recently installed “Hate Crime Coordinators” and dedicated hate crime detectives at each of the department's police stations.

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Feuer urged people to come forward to report hate crimes, saying that people with undocumented status will be protected during the process. “None of us is ever going to re-victimize someone who is either a victim or a witness of a hate crime," said Feuer.