LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Local law enforcement officials Wednesday urged victims of hate crimes to come forward and witnesses to report any attacks, vandalism and other incidents motivated by hate.
Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer joined LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, District Attorney Jackie Lacey and Assistant Sheriff Anthony La Berge at City Hall to assure the public that they will protect victims and prosecute offenders.
"Victims of hate crimes need to know that we will stand up for them," said Feuer. "No one should be reluctant or afraid to report a hate crime."
"The Los Angeles Police Department will continue to do what it has always done, and that is protect the people of Los Angeles, particularly those that are singled out," Beck vowed.
"If a crime is provable, we will prosecute it," Lacey said.
Samira Khan said she is the victim of a hate crime. In a Van Nuys parking lot Friday night, she said she noticed a man staring at her. "He just saw me in my scarf, and his expression really changed."
When she came back to her car, she saw that a window had been shattered. "I knew he was going to do something because the intense stare and his anger," Khan recalled.
She said police told her they were not investigating it as a hate crime because they can't be sure the man who was staring was the person who smashed the window.
But when there is even a suspicion that a hate crime may have been committed, law enforcement wants to hear about it.
Chief Beck said any potential victim will be protected, including undocumented immigrants. "I hold the relationship between the Los Angeles Police Department and the people who report crimes to it as a sacred bond. Our job is to protect you, not to persecute you."
The number of reported hate crimes grew 7 percent nationwide last year, which includes a 67 percent jump in crimes directed at Muslims, according to the FBI.
In the Los Angeles area, the county's Human Relations Commission found that following a seven-year decline, reported hate crimes grew for the first time by 24 percent, with Muslims seeing a 38 percent increase, according to Feuer.
On Tuesday, Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis recommended that the county take a stand, citing a series of verbal and physical assaults on residents.
"People in the county are being targeted because of their ethnicity, gender, race, religion, and we need to act now. This motion calls our communities to stand in unison and speak out against these acts of bullying, discrimination and hate violence," Solis said.
The supervisor also previewed a separate motion to protect immigrants from any federal mass deportation.
According to Solis' motion, a woman in Azusa was pushing a stroller along a sidewalk the day after the election when a gray-haired man in a red pickup truck pulled alongside, got out of the vehicle and said: "Get out of my country you ... You Mexicans infest this country and are all freeloaders," before throwing a cup of soda on the woman.
Before driving away, the man added, "You're lucky. If I would have had my gun, it would have gone worse for you," according to Solis, who said the report came from the Sheriff's Department.
Later, she held a rally in Grand Park, where supporters held heart-shaped signs reading "Stop Hate" in English and Spanish.
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl spoke about her family's history of fleeing the slaughter of Jews in Russia and persecution by Nazis, as well as her election as the first openly gay member of the California legislature.
Danger is multiplied "when a government gets involved in hatred and discrimination," Kuehl said. "We need to fight back."
Hate crimes can be reported by calling the toll-free "ASKLAPD" line at (877) 275-5273.
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