Amidst surge in reported hate crimes, Attorney General urges local partners across California to recommit themselves to taking action
Announces creation of a statewide hate crime coordinator position within the California Department of Justice
SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today released the 2021 Hate Crime in California Report and highlighted information and resources to support ongoing efforts across the state to combat hate. At 1,763 bias events in 2021, overall hate crimes reported in California increased 32.6% from 2020 to 2021 and are at their highest reported level since 2001. Reported hate crimes targeting Black people remain the most prevalent and increased 12.5% from 456 in 2020 to 513 in 2021, while reported anti-Asian hate crime events once again increased dramatically, rising 177.5% from 2020 to 2021, and reported hate crimes involving a sexual orientation bias also increased significantly, rising 47.8% from 2020 to 2021. Amidst this surge in reported hate crime events, Attorney General Bonta urges local partners and law enforcement to review the resources highlighted today and to recommit themselves to taking action. The Attorney General continues to convene law enforcement, elected leaders, and community organizations at the local level across the state to help increase awareness around available resources and strengthen responses to hate crime in California. In addition, today, Attorney General Bonta is formally announcing the creation of a statewide hate crime coordinator position within the California Department of Justice’s Criminal Law Division in order to further assist state and local law enforcement efforts to combat hate crime.
“Today’s report undeniably shows that the epidemic of hate we saw spurred on during the pandemic remains a clear and present threat,” said Attorney General Bonta. “In fact, reported hate crime has reached a level we haven’t seen in California since the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11. As our state’s top law enforcement officer, I will continue to use the full authority of my office to fight back. We will keep working with our local law enforcement partners and community organizations to make sure every Californian feels seen, heard, and protected. While there is no single solution, it’s up to all of us to heed the call, because when our communities feel empowered, they come forward. Now, more than ever, it is critical that we stand united — there is no place for hate in California.”
The California Department of Justice has collected and reported statewide data on hate crimes since 1995. Under California law, a hate crime is a criminal act committed in whole or in part because of a victim’s actual or perceived disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or association with someone with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics. Hate crimes are distinct from hate incidents, which are actions or behaviors motivated by hate that may be protected by the First Amendment right to freedom of expression. Examples of hate incidents include name-calling, insults, and distributing hate material in public places. If a hate incident starts to threaten a person or property, it may become a hate crime. Historically, hate crime data has generally been underreported and the California Department of Justice recognizes that the data presented in its reports may not adequately reflect the actual number of hate crime events that have occurred in the state. Nevertheless, it is important to note that the total number of hate crime events reported in 2021 is the sixth highest ever recorded and the highest since hate crime events skyrocketed in 2001 in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11.
Some of the key findings from the 2021 Hate Crime in California Report include:
- Overall, reported hate crime events increased 32.6% from 1,330 in 2020 to 1,763 in 2021;
- Anti-Black bias events were the most prevalent, increasing 12.5% from 456 in 2020 to 513 in 2021;
- Hate crime events motivated by a sexual orientation bias increased 47.8% from 205 in 2020 to 303 in 2021;
- Anti-Asian bias events increased 177.5% from 89 in 2020 to 247 in 2021;
- Anti-Hispanic or Latino bias events increased 29.6% from 152 in 2020 to 197 in 2021;
- Among hate crime events involving a religious bias, anti-Jewish bias events were the most prevalent and increased 32.2% from 115 in 2020 to 152 in in 2021; and
- From 2020 to 2021, the number of cases filed for prosecution by district attorneys and elected city attorneys involving hate crime charges increased by 30.1%.
In 2021, Attorney General Bonta issued a series of reports, guidance, and resources to help the public and law enforcement better understand and address hate crimes in California. Given the ongoing challenge presented by hate crime, the Attorney General urges leaders across the state and members of the public to review and make use of these important resources, which include a law enforcement bulletin summarizing applicable civil and criminal hate crime laws, guidance to prosecutors to help strengthen prosecution and enforcement, and brochures and fact sheets in more than two dozen languages to assist Californians in identifying and responding to hate crime events. Last year, Attorney General Bonta also released a special report on anti-Asian hate crimes during the pandemic, which offers important context and analysis regarding the recent increases in anti-Asian hate crime events.
Ahead of the release of last year’s report, Attorney General Bonta launched the Racial Justice Bureau, which, among other things, supports the California Department of Justice’s broader mandate to advance the civil rights of all Californians by assisting with new and ongoing efforts to combat hate and bias. Since last year, the Attorney General has also engaged with local leaders through roundtables in San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, San Diego, Riverside, Long Beach, Santa Ana, and San Jose. More broadly, the Attorney General is deeply committed to responding to the needs of historically marginalized and underrepresented communities and, last year, also launched the Office of Community Awareness, Response, and Engagement to work directly with community organizations and members of the public as part of the effort to advance justice for all Californians.
Members of the public can further explore the most recent hate crime data on OpenJustice.
A copy of the 2021 Hate Crime in California report is available here.