LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Los Angeles County saw an overall 21 percent drop in hate crimes last year, though religiously motivated crimes in general increased, with the vast majority directed at Jews and Jewish institutions, according to a report released Tuesday.
There were 109 sexual-orientation hate crimes reported in 2009, down from 134 in 2008, and were more likely to be violent than hate crimes motivated by race or religion, according to the annual Hate Crime Report by the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations.
A growing number of hate crimes — 24 percent — included white supremacy symbols, including swastikas. Jews were targeted in about half of these crimes, followed by blacks and Latinos.
“We see the same groups — African Americans, Jews, gays and lesbians, and Latinos — victimized most frequently year after year,” said Robin Toma, executive director of the Human Relations Commission.
The number of crimes, which dropped from 730 in 2008 to 580 last year, reflects one murder and two attempted murders, Toma said. It is the second lowest hate crime count in the past decade.
Hate crimes occurred across Los Angeles County, but the most were recorded in the San Fernando Valley, followed by the metro area. Accounting for population, the highest concentration was in the metro area, followed by the Antelope Valley, the commission determined.
Crimes targeting Armenians and transgender people rose, though only a handful of hate crimes against them were reported, according to the commission.
Religion-motivated crime grew by 9 percent, with most 88 percent of the crime directed at Jews and Jewish institutions, the report said.
In 2008, anti-Jewish hate crimes accounted for 10 percent of hate crimes, and comprised 65 percent of crimes targeting religious groups. This year, one out of five hate crimes reported in the county was against Jews, a 49 percent increase in anti-Jewish crime.
“While the overall decline in hate crimes is a good trend, we remain concerned about the high levels of hate crimes against Jewish institutions and individuals,” said Amanda Susskind, regional director of the Pacific Southwest Region of the Anti-Defamation League.
“The statistic suggesting a significant growth is skewed slightly because some of these crimes were relatively minor graffiti, which appeared to be the work of serial vandals,” she said.
Susskind referred to a spate of graffiti in the Fairfax district and adjacent neighborhoods during spring 2009.
The largest number of incidents overall involved race, with hate crimes between blacks and Latinos remaining high, Toma said.
“There is persistent evidence of tension and conflict” between the groups, he said.
A majority of Latino gang members were suspects in 77 percent of anti-black crimes, and blacks were suspects in 48 percent of the anti-Latino crimes, the report stated.
Susskind and others pointed to the bitter rhetoric surrounding illegal immigration for helping foster racial intolerance.
“We need to teach our kids that it’s not hip to hate,” she said. “It’s really something we as a community have to take responsibility for.”
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