Orange County Sheriff's cruiser
Orange Count Sheriff's cruiser. photo by John Schrieber

Hate crimes in Orange County dipped last year compared to 2020, but there was a jump in hate “incidents,” according to the OC Human Relations Commission’s annual report issued Thursday.

The county recorded 398 hate crimes and incidents in 2021 — 97 hate crimes and 301 incidents, which fall short of the standard for criminal charges, according to the report. The overall total represented a 6% increase from 2020, when 375 hate crimes and incidents were reported — 112 hate crimes and 263 incidents.

By category, hate crimes dropped by 13% from 2020 to 2021, but hate incidents jumped by 14%.

Of the hate crimes recorded in 2021, 56% were based on the victim’s race or ethnicity, 21% were motivated by religion and 23% were due to sexual orientation.

In the hate incidents category, most of the offensive behavior was due to race or ethnicity, at 65%, while 29% targeted the victim’s religion.

The victims of hate incidents were primarily of Asian descent, with 51% falling into that category. Twenty-six percent were antisemitic, and 8% were aimed at Black residents.

According to the report, 22 reported hate crimes last year targeted sexual orientation, which was an 83% increase over 2020. Ten hate crimes last year were aimed at Asian-Pacific Islanders, which was a 43% increase from 2020.

There was a 164% increase over 2020 in hate incidents directed at Asian-Pacific Islanders, according to the report.

The combined number of hate crimes and incidents last year was up 165% compared to five years ago.

According to the report, 33% of the crimes and incidents happened in public places such as a park or on the street.

For hate crimes, 25, or 34.7%, were in public; 14, or 19.4%, were in a residence; and 14, or 19.4%, were in a workplace. Seven, or 9.7%, were in a school; four, or 5.6%, were at a religious site; and the remaining eight, or 11.1%, were at an unknown place.

Of the hate crimes in 2021, 16 were anti-Black, 10 were anti-Asian/Pacific Islander, seven were anti-Latino, four were anti-Middle Eastern/Arab, and four were anti-white. Ten were anti-gay, five were anti-LGBTQ and one was anti-lesbian. In 26 incidents the bias was unknown.

During an online seminar on the report’s findings, commission members released a letter one victim received in the mail about a resident of Asian descent moving out of a neighborhood. The letter writer said, “You frickin’ Asians are taking over our American community and it is not resting well with all and who lives here … watch out, pack your bags and go back to your country, where you belong.”

Irvine Police Chief Michael Kent said he believes the crimes and incidents are underreported.

“It’s really important for us not to just document it but to do outreach,” Kent said. “I still think that this is underreported, significantly underreported.”

Deputy District Attorney Billy Ha of the Orange County District Attorney’s hate crimes unit, said, “The reporting of these crimes is so important. We can’t successfully investigate or prosecute cases if we don’t know about them. … The bottom line is it really takes a village to combat this.”

Kent added that many of the incidents are not reported for a variety of reasons.

“One commonality in what you hear is, `I was too embarrassed,’ or `I didn’t know what to do, or who to call. I didn’t know if it’s worth bothering anybody about this,”’ Kent said.

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