Watch CBS News

AG Bonta: Anti-Black and Asian bias fueling hate crime surge in California

AG Bonta: Anti-Black and Asian bias fueling hate crime surge in California
AG Bonta: Anti-Black and Asian bias fueling hate crime surge in California 01:23

SAN FRANCISCO — Hate crimes in California shot up 33% to nearly 1,800 reported incidents in 2021, the sixth highest tally on record and the highest since after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, the state attorney general's office said Tuesday.

Attorney General Rob Bonta said that crimes against Black people were again the most prevalent in 2021, climbing 13% from 2020 to 513 reported incidents. Hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation bias increased nearly 50% to 303 incidents while crimes against Asian Americans were up 178% to 247 incidents.

"Today's report undeniably shows that the epidemic of hate we saw spurred on during the pandemic remains a clear and present threat," Bonta said in a statement. "While there is no single solution, it's up to all of us to heed the call, because when our communities feel empowered, they come forward."

Last year's annual report showed a similarly high increase — 31% — with anti-Black bias making up the bulk of incidents in a state where African Americans are 6% of the population. The 2020 report also showed a startling increase in bias crimes against Asian Americans following the emergence of the coronavirus in China.

Video of attacks involving Asian American victims, particularly seniors, went viral last year with San Francisco police in January reporting an astonishing 567% increase in reported crimes from the previous year. The initial count showed 60 victims in 2021, up from nine in 2020. Half of last year's victims were allegedly targeted by one man. Still not all criminal attacks carry a hate crime charge since prosecutors need to prove the suspect was motivated by bias.

In San Francisco, the 2021 death of an 84-year-old Thai grandfather is headed to trial although the district attorney's office has not filed hate crime charges in that case.

Officials say reported hate crime statistics may be far lower than actual numbers, but add they've taken steps to encourage reporting by victims. Nationally, hate crimes rose to the highest level in more than a decade in 2019, according to an FBI report.

The 1,763 hate crimes reported in 2021 in California is the highest since 2001, when 2,261 hate crimes were reported.

In May, a white gunman killed 10 Black shoppers and workers at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York. A steep rise in anti-Asian bias since 2020 included the March 2021 killing of eight people at Atlanta-area massage businesses, including six women of Asian descent.

A hate crime is motivated by the victim's gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or disability. Hate incidents such as name calling are not necessarily criminal. The California Department of Justice has collected and reported statewide data on hate crimes since 1995.

Crimes showing bias against Latinos increased 30% to 197 incidents in 2021 while anti-Jewish bias events increased 32% to 152 in 2021, the most in the religious bias category.

Bonta announced the new position of a statewide hate crime coordinator within the California Department of Justice to assist state and local law enforcement efforts to battle hate crimes.

The report also showed that district attorneys and elected city attorneys filed 30% more cases in 2021 involving hate crime charges.

In a show of solidarity, community members in the Castro remembered two victims who were gunned down at a gay bar on Saturday in Oslo Norway. 21 others were injured during the Pride weekend shooting.  

Norway's consul general in San Francisco paid her respects, Tuesday afternoon.

"I think we need to all stay together to make sure that we can continue to celebrate diversity," said Gry Rabe Henriksen.

"Asian elders are getting beat up just because they're Asian and we don't have republicans deploring those attacks," said Michael Petrelis, a community organizer in the Castro. "We believe that by showing solidarity as gay people with other minorities we will less hatred in America."

Reverend Amos Brown, president of the NAACPs San Francisco branch said the findings weren't surprising. 

"It just mirrors, it reflects America. America has hated African Americans and that virus is still in the political, religious and social DNA," said Brown. 

Hate crimes against the AAPI community shot up dramatically since the pandemic began. 

San Francisco city attorney David Chiu says the numbers are just the tip of the iceberg.  

"We know that not all the time are agencies able to track this information, there are folks who are attacked who are fearful of having discussions with government or who think that reporting won't matter," said Chiu. "I think the other thing to note is for every incident of a hate crime, there are many other incidents and manifestations of hate and racism and discrimination." 

Betty Yu contributed to this report.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.