The famously tolerant Bay Area saw a 30 percent spike in reported hate crimes in 2017, raising questions about whether the polarizing rhetoric of President Donald Trump’s first year in office contributed to growing tension on the streets.
The figures are detailed in a new report this week from the California Attorney General’s office that showed increases in hate crimes reports last year over 2016 in Santa Clara (43 percent) and San Francisco (31 percent) counties. Alameda County saw the largest increase, with 86 hate-related acts reported in 2017 — a 46 percent rise from 2016.
Contra Costa County had 21 hate crime reports — the same number it had in 2016 — and San Mateo County had 14 reports, two less than in 2016. Reported hate crimes jumped more than 17 percent in California last year compared with 2016, though the incidents remain relatively rare.
Hate crimes are defined as those targeting victims because of their race or ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, gender or a disability.
“Right around when the administration changed, we noticed an uptick at local, statewide and national levels of people reporting that they were victims of hate-related speech, and hate crimes,” said Teresa Drenick, deputy district attorney for Alameda County.
But local prosecutors were split over what was behind the rise in the numbers last year: Was it linked to Trump’s move to the White House or Bay Area law enforcement’s stepped-up campaign to encourage victims to file reports?
Shortly after the 2016 presidential election, the Alameda County District Attorney’s office launched a hate-crime hotline — 510-208-4824 — to encourage people to report hate-related incidents. Last year, the county saw a four-fold increase in the number of hate-related cases referred to the district attorney’s office — 61 in 2017, up from 14 in 2016.
“We’ve been proactive within our county to get the word out that this conduct will not be tolerated,” said Drenick.
In the past year, Alameda County witnessed multiple instances of synagogues being targeted with anti-Semitic acts, which shook communities connected to Temple Sinai in Oakland and Kehilla Community Synagogue in Piedmont.
With 23 reports of hate-related acts, Berkeley, home to multiple protests on the UC-Berkeley campus, had the most reports in Alameda County. San Jose had 45 reports and San Francisco 42.
“We’re very comfortable in the Bay Area with saying that hate crimes don’t happen here,” said Simon O’Connell, deputy district attorney for Contra Costa County. “We’re educated, we’re diverse, we’re open-minded,” but in fact, he says, “hate crimes do happen here.”
Statewide, the department said 1,013 hate crimes were reported in 2017 compared with 982 in 2016. The bulk of the hate crimes involved racial bias, with 602 cases reported last year compared with 519 in 2016. Anti-gay hate crimes rose 3.2 percent to 172 in 2017 from 152 in 2016.
The report comes about a month after state auditors said California is underreporting hate crimes to the FBI, state lawmakers and the public because local law enforcement agencies lack adequate policies and training.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
2017 Hate Crime Reports
- Alameda County: 86 (46% over 2016)
- San Mateo 14 (-13%)
- Santa Clara 57 (43%)
- San Francisco 47 (31%)
- Contra Costa 21 (0%)
Source: Hate Crime in California 2017 Report; California Department of Justice
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