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L.A. County hate crimes drop to 21-year low

The decline in 2010 stemmed in part from a reduction in gang-related hate crimes, particularly those by Latino gangs targeting African Americans. Statewide, overall figures were largely unchanged.

November 19, 2011|By Sam Quinones, Los Angeles Times

Hate crimes reported in Los Angeles County fell to the lowest level in 21 years, fueled by major drops in vandalism and in gang-related crimes, particularly those by Latino gangs targeting African Americans, which had made up a large number of the most violent hate crimes.

The Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations' annual report for 2010 documents a third consecutive year in which hate crimes declined across the county. The total fell from 593 hate crimes in 2009 to 427, the lowest number since 1989.

The drop contrasted with hate crimes statewide, whose numbers remained largely unchanged in 2010 from the year before, the report noted.

Reports of hate vandalism in L.A. County, primarily graffiti, dropped by 41% from 220 in 2009 to 130 last year.

A 42% decrease in anti-black hate crimes — from 211 reported crimes in 2009 to 123 in 2010 — was "a major factor" in the decline, said Robin Toma, the commission's director.

"We've seen it decline now for three years in a row — the anti-black hate crime," Toma said. "This precipitous decline, reaching lower than it was 10 years ago, is really heartening news."

One reason for the decline is a decrease in gang-involved hate crime, Toma said. In the past, Latino gangs have been major sources of anti-black hate crime, according to the commission.

And gang-related crimes — particularly between Latinos and African Americans — were a significant part of violent hate crimes. Hate crimes in which gang members were suspects dropped from 80 in 2009 to 40 last year, although two-thirds of the crimes were violent assaults, according to the report.

The gang-related crimes counted include only those in which a racial reference or epithet was uttered during the crime. "They do not include hate crimes based solely on the appearance of suspects (e.g. shaved heads, baggy clothes). The actual number of hate crimes committed by gang members may be higher," the report said.

sam.quinones@latimes.com

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