California Attorney General Rob Bonta said on Tuesday that reported hate crimes targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders nearly tripled to 247 incidents last year, continuing a troubling trend that escalated during the pandemic.
Reported hate crimes increased in several categories, according to data presented by Bonta at a press conference in Sacramento. In addition to AAPI hate crimes, anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes increased 48%, with 303 reported incidents statewide. Hate crimes targeted at Black people remained the most prevalent statewide, with 512 reported incidents, up 12.5% from 2020.
The latest statewide surge of AAPI hate crimes comes on the heels of another spike in 2020, which saw a 107% increase compared to 2019 according to data from the Department of Justice.
Overall hate crimes statewide increased by 32.6% last year compared to 2020, a level not seen since the aftermath of 9/11, said Bonta.
“Today’s report undeniably shows that the epidemic of hate we saw spurred on during the pandemic remains a clear and present threat,” Bonta said.
Bonta acknowledged, however, that the data may not sufficiently capture what communities are seeing: Hate crimes are often underreported at the local level, and that aggregated data may not account for other forms of hostility targeted at vulnerable groups.
San Francisco is no exception. San Francisco police received 60 reports of hate crimes targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders last year, a dramatic jump over 9 reports in 2020. However, nearly half of the 60 reported hate crimes were allegedly due to one person vandalizing Asian-owned businesses.
San Francisco has also had unique challenges in addressing spikes in AAPI hate crimes due to language access barriers and a lack of coordination across organizations, with non-standardized channels for reporting hate incidents.
Gabby Trejo, Executive Director of community advocacy group Sacramento ACT, implored Californians to report hate crimes if they happen to them or those in their community.
“It is important for us to build a California where everyone is seen, where everyone belongs, and where everyone feels safe,” Trujo said.
Bonta also announced that his department is adding a new position specifically focused on coordinating the agency’s response to hate crimes. Bonta said the position would work in the criminal law division of the Attorney General’s office, but was short on details, describing the position as a “point person working with internal and external partners when it comes to the criminal aspect of this important work.”
Bonta said that beyond the statistics are people and communities being affected by hate, which he said had “no place” in California.
“These, of course, are statistics but they are also more than just numbers, each represents an attack on a person, a neighbor, a family member, a Californian,” Bonta said.
Garrett Leahy can be reached at [email protected]