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Reported hate crimes in California last year reached a level not seen since 9/11, state attorney general says

By Nicole Chavez, CNN

From 2020-2021, California recorded the highest surge in reported hate crimes since the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, according to the state’s Attorney General, Rob Bonta.

Bonta announced the findings of a new California Department of Justice report on Tuesday. The number of hate crimes reported in the state went from 1,330 in 2020 to 1,763 last year — making it the sixth highest total recorded since the agency began collecting and reporting statewide hate crimes data in 1995.

A significant portion of incidents involved racial and sexual orientation biases, according to the report. The latter increased about 48% from 205 in 2020 to 303 in 2021.

Crimes against Black people — the most prevalent, the report noted — rose 12.5% from 2020 to 513 reported incidents. Anti-Asian crimes increased 177.5% from 89 in 2020 to 247 last year.

Hate crimes against Latinos saw an increase of nearly 30% from 152 in 2020 to 197 last year, the report found.

“One hard truth in our state, just as we’ve seen across the nation, is that the epidemic of hate we saw spurred on during the pandemic remains a clear and present threat,” Bonta said in a news conference Tuesday.

The report, Bonta said, “affirms what we’ve been hearing on the ground. The pandemic gave way to an epidemic of hate.”

Thousands of people in the United States have been victims of anti-Asian incidents, from verbal abuse to physical attacks, since the start of the pandemic. Advocates and lawmakers have redoubled efforts to protect the community in the past two years, but reports of assaults and bigotry continue from coast to coast.

Earlier this month, an Asian man was assaulted outside a storefront in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Koreatown. Video footage released by police shows the suspect using his elbow to strike the victim in the face. Los Angeles police arrested a suspect last week, but authorities have yet to state whether the assault constitutes a hate crime.

The findings of the statewide report come months after San Francisco officials said anti-Asian hate crimes spiked 567% in 2021. Police Chief Bill Scott said more than 30 of the total 60 incidents in 2021 were committed by the same person who deliberately targeted Asians. He was arrested in August for burglaries and acts of vandalism, and also faces hate crime enhancements.

Bonta said hate crimes present a number of challenges to authorities, including a lack of reporting.

“These, of course, are statistics but they are more than just numbers. Each of these incidents represents an attack on a person, a neighbor, a family member, a fellow Californian, and worse, we know our statistics likely are not exhaustive. Still today, too many are too afraid to come forward,” Bonta said.

Former prosecutors, experts and attorneys of victims of violence have also told CNN that hate crimes are more difficult to charge and prosecute than other criminal offenses.

California’s report found the number of cases filed for prosecution by district attorneys and elected city attorneys involving hate crime charges increased by 30% from 2020 to 2021.

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CNN’s Stella Chan contributed to this report.

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