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'Hate Crimes' Hit Record in L.A. County

February 18, 1988|VICTOR MERINA | Times Staff Writer

The number of racially and religiously motivated "hate crimes" in Los Angeles County hit a record high in 1987, due partly to the growing activism of "white power" groups, according to a report issued Wednesday by the county's Human Relations Commission.

The panel, which releases an annual survey of racially or religiously motivated vandalism and violence, recorded 184 such incidents last year--the highest number since the commission began keeping statistics in 1980.

Among the reported cases were 79 incidents linked to racial bias, most of which involved black victims. Another 115 incidents, directed mainly at Jewish targets, were blamed on religious hatred.

Highest Number Ever

"Our numbers for 1987 are the highest we've ever had, and we don't think it's a result of improved reporting; it's real," said Eugene Mornell, the commission's executive director.

"We also think there is an under-count (of incidents), particularly for Latinos and Asians," he said, adding that tension and hostility between racial groups also has worsened.

Among the 79 racially motivated incidents, 52% involved black victims while 19% dealt with Asians and 18% with Latinos. But in its report, the commission noted that recent Asian or Latino immigrants often fail to report hate crimes "either due to lack of English proficiency, suspicion of law enforcement or failure to recognize the criminal element of the act."

The panel also was told by the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee that Arab victims often do not know how to report crimes or fear reprisals.

While graffiti was the most common expression of racial bigotry, assaults or attempted assaults accounted for more than 20% of the incidents, according to the commission. It also recorded complaints of trash dumping, tire slashing, cross burning and gunshots aimed at racially harassed victims.

One black family in Studio City reported that eggs were thrown on their driveway, animal intestines left on their porch and the windows shot out of their car, according to the commission. The Northridge home of a Latino family was vandalized with painted racial slurs, and their car tires were slashed in another incident last October. And hate-group graffiti and racial slurs were painted on the Gardena home of an Asian man last December.

Attacks on Whites

For the first time, the commission also documented two racially motivated attacks on whites by Latino and black assailants.

However, in describing a "systematic rise" in hate crimes, the panel blamed a portion of that increase on "white power" organizations and the growing presence of such groups as the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and "skinheads."

In relating the number of religiously motivated crimes, the commission said that while 85% of the incidents involved Jewish victims, the list of religious faiths that suffered attacks included Catholics, Protestants, Muslims and evangelicals.

Racial incidents and religiously motivated crimes were scattered throughout the county, but the largest percentage was in the 3rd Supervisorial District, which includes Hollywood and Beverly Hills, much of West and East Los Angeles, and parts of the San Fernando Valley. The district has a concentrated Jewish population and large communities of Asian and Latino immigrants.

5th District Affected

Close behind was the 5th District, which includes the largely white San Fernando Valley and the cities of Burbank and Glendale.

Betsy Rosenthal, Western states counsel for the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, said the commission's findings were similar to a survey by her organization showing that anti-Semitic violence is on the rise in Southern California and across the nation.

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