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Blog Post · May 28, 2024

Hate Crime Trends in California

photo - Police with Handcuffed Suspect at Night

Hate crimes in California have been on the rise for nearly a decade, with numbers spiking between 2020 and 2022 (the year of the latest data). These are crimes with reasonable evidence of motivation based on a victim’s race/ethnicity, gender, or other personal characteristics.

Recent increases have affected Black, Latino, and Asian Californians most—and violent hate crimes have driven much of this trend. The troubling numbers may not reflect the full scope of these crimes, which are widely assumed to be underreported. Amid these challenges, California is taking action–targeting money to improve reporting and support affected communities.

Before we look at the numbers, it is important to note that the most recent available data from California’s Department of Justice does not yet capture crime trends after 2022. This means that any effects of recent events—such as the Israel-Hamas war—won’t be captured here. Still, the data provides an important look at an urgent issue affecting communities across the state.

Overall long-term trends indicate a concerning pattern. Reported hate crimes in California fell markedly after 2001, the first year we can track. After hitting a low point in 2014, hate crimes rose fairly steadily until 2020. Between 2019 and 2022 these crimes more than doubled, from 1,015 to 2,120.

Violent hate crimes—which grew by 791 incidents—are behind most of this recent increase; property hate crimes increased by 314. The most common violent hate crimes in 2022 were assault (505), aggravated assault (418), and intimidation (464). The most common property hate crimes were destruction of property/vandalism (605), theft (16), and arson (12).

Some of the largest increases were in crimes targeting Black, Latino, and Asian Californians. From 2019 to 2022, hate crimes against Black Californians nearly tripled from 243 to 661; those against Latinos almost doubled from 110 to 210; and those against Asians more than tripled from 43 to 143 (anti-Asian hate crimes peaked at 248 in 2021). Note that while some of these crimes may have been motivated by more than one type of bias, our data only accounts for a single aspect of a person’s identity.

These increases are overwhelmingly driven by violent rather than property crimes. In 2022, violent hate crimes accounted for just over 75% of all reported hate crimes against these three groups.

Weapons were used in 25% of all anti-Black, anti-Latino, and anti-Asian hate crimes in 2022. The most common weapons used were knives (64), blunt objects such as bludgeons or clubs (57), and handguns (34).

These numbers almost certainly understate the problem. Reporting is one issue; victims may be more or less willing to report hate crimes to begin with. Identification is another issue; law enforcement in various jurisdictions may have limited capacity to properly identify the motivation for a crime.

To address these issues, both community-based and official efforts have emerged. Organizations such as Stop AAPI Hate encourage their members to report incidents in ways that feel safe. Law enforcement agencies have amended their policies and increased their ability to recognize hate crimes over the years, adding categories of bias motivations.

The California Legislature is also working to address hate crimes. AB 485, passed in 2022, requires local law enforcement agencies to post monthly updates on hate crimes to their official websites. AB 449, passed in 2023, requires all law enforcement agencies to adopt protocols for reporting suspected hate crimes and state law enforcement agencies to report information on hate crimes to the state attorney general. In the past year, Governor Newsom has launched a “CA vs Hate” awareness and education campaign that includes establishing an online reporting hotline and providing funds to local organizations that support victims.

It is possible that these efforts have contributed to a greater willingness and ability to report hate crimes and hate-motivated incidents in the past several years. This potential change in reporting behavior, along with increased media attention to the problem, may be partially responsible for the recent uptick in the number of incidents we report on here.

As all of these efforts evolve, and as more information becomes available, we will continue to monitor ongoing trends in this important area of criminal justice.


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