PACIFICA, Calif., (KRON) – Is every criminal act between members of two different racial groups considered a hate crime? The answer to that question can be found in a new report by the California Attorney General’s Office.
The report shows, among other things, that California has seen a major increase in biased-based crimes. Police say the graffiti included racial slurs directed at African-Americans. The numbers speak for themselves when it comes to violence towards the AAPI community.
The number of hate crime events reported in the state of California increased by 36%. That is according to the California Department of Justice annual hate crime report for 2021. State Attorney General Rob Bonta’s office held a virtual media availability to discuss some of the highlights in the report. The term “hate crime” is commonly used in the community and in the media to describe a wide variety of incidents.
California Assistant Attorney General Damond Brown said in a statement, “in the criminal context the bias motivation must be a substantial factor.”
According to the DOJ, in order for a criminal act to meet the legal definition of a hate crime, it must include these caveats, outlined by California Special Assistant Attorney General Alyson Lunetta. “There must be a criminal act,” she said. “The crime must be biased and motivated. That bias comes from the offender. The victim does not have to possess the characteristics behind the offender’s bias.”
Among the list of legally protected categories are sex, color, race, and religion. It is important to note according to federal law, not all biased motivated acts are reportable as hate crimes
Assistant Attorney General Lunetta said, “for example, biases against financial status, like wealthy or poor, the elderly, people who dress differently, smokers, drinkers, people who may be underweight or overweight.”
Taking a look at the numbers between 2020 and 2021, during the height of the pandemic, there were a total of 1,165 hate crimes. Lunetta said, “Anti-Asian was our largest increase but the Anti-Black and Anti-African American represent nearly half of all racially motivated crimes.”
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What should you do if you or someone you know is a victim of a hate crime? Assistant Attorney General Redding says, “start with calling the local police. If it is something that needs to be elevated to a statewide agency, the local police would know or should know to do that.”