Hate crimes and race-related incidents in Orange County continued a three-year trend of increases in 2017, according to a report released Tuesday by the Orange County Human Relations Commission.
According to the report, there were 56 reported hate crimes last year, up from 50 in 2016 and 44 in 2015.
There were 94 “hate incidents” last year, up from 72 in 2016 and 43 in 2015. Hate incidents are defined by the commission as racially charged instances that don’t necessarily rise to the level of a crime.
The most common form of hate crime was vandalism at 34 percent, followed by simple assaults at 13 percent, criminal threats at 9 percent and aggravated assaults at 7 percent, the report found.
This year, Muslims were the most commonly targeted group for hate crimes. In 13 percent of the hate crimes, Muslims were victimized. When combining Muslims and people of Middle Eastern descent, the percentage rises to 16 percent, or nine victims.
“This is more than double the number of the past few years and appears to be part of a national trend that also shows an increase of hate crimes targeting Muslim and people who appear to be Middle Eastern,” according to the report.
The next-most targeted group were people of Jewish descent at 9 percent.
“Most of the hate crimes against the Jewish community were vandalism that displayed the swastika symbol,” the report reads.
In 2016, black residents were the most targeted by hate crimes, but the number of black victims fell from seven in 2016 to four last year.
Lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people are seeing a trend downward in the county’s hate crimes. There were 11 hate crimes against the LGBT community in 2015, five in 2016 and two last year.
Hate crimes against Latinos fell from four in 2016 to three last year.
Hate crimes against Asians also dipped from four in 2016 and three last year. There was one hate crime apiece directed at a Native American and a white person.
The hate crimes most commonly occurred in public places such as parks and shopping centers at 40 percent and in neighborhoods at 23 percent.
“Schools, disturbingly, were the most common location for hate incidents to occur, at 23 percent of reported hate incidents,” according to the report.
It’s sometimes difficult to tell if hate crimes are up because of outside influences or because of more effective and frequent reporting, said Alison Edwards, the commission’s chief executive.
But the rise in racial incidents mirrors a national trend of reported hate groups, Edwards said.
Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer, who is running to unseat Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, blamed “lax prosecution methods” on the increase in hate crimes.
“Reported hate crime is up 27 percent since 2015,” Spitzer said. “Yet our county does not prosecute hate crimes at the same rate as Los Angeles, San Bernardino and San Diego counties. This is a disservice to targets of hate crime and does not speak to the critical need to pursue justice for all victims.”
Rackauckas campaign consultant, Dave Gilliard, responded, “Tony Rackauckas vigorously prosecutes all crimes, including hate crime.”