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Reports of Hate Crimes Hit 10-Year High In California

California Attorney General Rob Bonta stands in front of a group of people wearing blue vests and masks in Oakland's Chinatown for his press conference on hate crimes.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta announces California's hate crime statistics at a news conference in Oakland's Chinatown.
(Screenshot from California Department of Justice YouTube channel)
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Hate crimes in California have reached their highest reported level in a decade, hitting the 1,300 mark in 2020, according to new statistics reported by state Attorney General Rob Bonta at a press conference on Wednesday.

Anti-Black hate crimes were the most prevalent: 456 cases last year, an increase of 88% over 2019.

Meanwhile, Asian Americans saw hate crimes more than double, from 43 in 2019 to 89 cases in 2020. The 107% jump — the biggest percentage increase among demographic groups — prompted the state Department of Justice to issue an additional report this year examining hate crimes against Asians.

Bonta’s office found that the share of anti-Asian hate crimes that are violent in nature — as compared to property damage — has steadily risen in recent years to 81% in 2020.

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Screenshot of a bar chart showing that the share of anti-Asian crimes that are violent has been rising.
The share of anti-Asian crimes that are violent has been rising.

Addressing the Asian American community, Bonta said: “I want you to know that this state sees you … that you're being heard and that we're going to keep doing our part.”

Bonta spoke in Oakland’s Chinatown, the site of high-profile attacks on Asian Americans such as local community leader Carl Chan who stood alongside the Attorney General. Chan, president of Oakland's Chinatown Chamber of Commerce, was assaulted in April and called an ethnic slur.

Bonta shared his concerns about his Filipina American mom traveling on her own to neighboring San Francisco, which has also seen a wave of anti-Asian violence.

“And I said, ‘No, Mom, I don't think it's okay. I think I should take you. I don't think it's safe,’” Bonta said.

Other findings released Wednesday:

  • Anti-Hispanic or Latino hate crimes rose from 110 in 2019 to 152 in 2020,
  • Anti-white crimes rose from 39 in 2019 to 82 in 2020.
  • Hate crime events involving religion fell 13.5%, from 208 in 2019 to 180 in 2020.

The AG’s office said hate crime underreporting is likely because some victims have limited English, a distrust of law enforcement and concern about immigration status.

The office has updated brochures in 25 languages on how to report hate crimes and distinguish them from hate incidents, such as name-calling and posting hate material, which are also bias-motivated but not against the law.

The AG’s office on Wednesday also issued a bulletin to law enforcement agencies that provides a review of hate crime laws. A 2018 state auditor's report found that agencies were sometimes misidentifying hate crimes as lesser incidents.