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Hate crimes drop to 21-year low in L.A. County

Hate crimes reported in L.A. County fell to their lowest level in 21 years, fueled by major drops in vandalism and in gang-related crimes, particularly those by Latino gangs targeting African Americans, which had made up a large number of the most violent hate crimes.

The Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations' 2010 Hate Crime Report documents a third consecutive year in which hate crimes dropped around the county.

The total number of crimes fell to 427 from 593 in 2009 -- marking the lowest number of reported hate crimes since 1989.

The drop contrasted with hate crimes statewide, which remained largely unchanged in 2010 from the year before, the report noted.

In L.A. County, hate crimes reported against African Americans were cut almost in half; hate crimes against Jews fell by more than 40%.

Reports of hate vandalism, primarily graffiti, dropped by 40% from 220 in 2009 to 130 last year.

In 2010, hate crimes in which gang members were suspects dropped in half from 80 crimes in 2009 to 40 last year, though two-thirds of the crimes were violent assaults, according to the report.

The gang-related reports counted include only those in which a racial reference or epithet was uttered during the crime.

“They do not include hate crimes based solely on the appearance of suspects [e.g. shaved heads, baggy clothes]," the report noted. "The actual number of hate crimes committed by gang members may be higher.”

The drop coincides with a major change in gang behavior in Southern California in the last few years, say police and gang members interviewed by The Times.

Increasingly, gang members have backed away from public activity that was part of Southern California gang culture for years, such as feuding over territory, graffiti, wearing gang colors and other crimes and activity that bring police attention.

Though decreasing and relatively small in number, racially motivated attacks between the Latino and black communities remain “one of the most serious features of hate crime in Los Angeles County,” the report noted.

Almost 60% of all anti-black hate crimes were committed by Latinos. Meanwhile, blacks committed more than three-quarters of all hate crimes targeting Latinos, a jump from about 50% of the total in 2009, according to the report.

In addition, the report stated, “The rate of violence was very high in these crimes.”

By contrast, white supremacist hate crimes continued to be an ever-smaller part of the mix. Hate crimes showing evidence of white supremacist ideology dropped from 144 in 2009 to 77, or 18% of the total, in 2010.

Most of those -– about 70% -– were of graffiti expressing hatred of blacks or Jews, according to the report.

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 -- Sam Quinones

twitter.com/samquinones7

 
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