The OC Human Relations Council is tackling hate crimes and incidents through a combination of community education and expanding reporting tools following a sharp rise in hate crimes over the past couple years.

While the group hasn’t issued a report for 2021 yet, the 2020 report showed a sharp rise in hate crimes and incidents. 

[Read: OC Reported Hate Crimes And Incidents Increased in 2020, According to New Report]

The worsening trends have sent local politicians and community leaders into a scramble as they try to figure out ways to reverse the increasing hate activity. 

The local Anti-Defamation League chapter also found a rise in anti semitism throughout Orange County.

At a forum held last Friday, the organization’s CEO, Alison Edwards, said it’s also vital to listen to community feedback so the organization can improve its efforts to combat hate.

“We want to look at new ways that we can work together and hear directly from you — your recommendations for different and new ways to address hate in the County of Orange,” Edwards said Friday. “We must meet this moment together.”

Some strategies to curb the hate trends include school programs and community engagement with at-risk students. One school program encourages violence prevention and provides youth leadership training.

The organization also ​​offers educational training and presentations in the areas of diversity, intercultural communication, gender, identity, conflict resolution, team building and other human relations topics.

Resident groups from across the county were invited to give feedback on how to address hate activity.

The event comes weeks after a gunman — fueled by his hate for Taiwanese people — killed John Cheng and injured five others at a church event for the Taiwanese community in Laguna Woods.

[Read: Authorities: Suspect in Laguna Woods Shooting Was Politically Motivated by ‘Hate’ for Taiwanese]

The OC Human Relations Council hosted officials from K-12 school systems, colleges and nonprofit organizations to bring input on how to minimize bias-motivated hate.

Local and regional elected officials, including Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, were also there on Friday.

“What was initially thought to be a tragic act of violence was later identified for what it truly was — an act that was motivated by hate,” Bartlett said at the forum. “The recent cowardly act that only highlights the prevalence of hate crimes in CC but also emphasizes the urgent need for us to come together as a community to address these issues and take action.”

Officials said another way to help decrease hate crimes in the county is to improve the availability and accessibility of reporting such incidents.

That’s why the OC Human Relations Council began their initiative through a $1 million grant from the county — Hate Hurts Us All.

The initiative allows people to report hate crimes and incidents through a variety of different avenues, including email, phone call and texts. The services are also available in ​​Arabic, Chinese, English, Filipino, Korean, Persian, Spanish and Vietnamese.

“How do we know that hate is on the rise? Sometimes it’s hard to tell, but the numbers are reflecting for sure right now,” said Sara Sheikh-Arvizu, hate crime prevention coordinator for the OC Human Relations Council. “Underreporting is significant.”

The funding was also used to increase mental health services for those impacted by hate activity.

“We must come together to create safe spaces for healing and lead the conversations in reimagining the ways we can fight hate in our community,” Bartlett said. “We can talk about how hate can manifest itself in society and focus on local and national strategies. We’ve got to be able to prevent further hate-related incidents and crimes in Orange County.”

Sheikh-Arvizu said there are 24 to 28 times more hate crimes and incidents than reported. 

Although there were 375 reported hate crimes and incidents in 2020, in reality, there were likely greater than 9,000 events that occured in the county, she said.

The Hate Hurts Us All campaign also aimed to increase awareness and education and bias-motivated hate and improve wrap-around care for hate victims in various languages.

“We must come together to create safe spaces for healing and lead the conversations in reimagining the ways we can fight hate in our community,” Bartlett said. “We can talk about how hate can manifest itself in society and focus on local and national strategies. We’ve got to be able to prevent further hate-related incidents and crimes in Orange County.”

The organization highlighted some other stark statistics. In 2020 in Orange County, there was a 114% increase in atisemetic hate incidents, an 88% increase in anti-Black hate crimes and a 1800% increase in anti-Asian hate reported.

“Hate is normalized,” Sheikh-Arvizu said. “We’re in a place where — especially in those communities that are overtargetted — it’s normal. This is just what it’s like to be Black or Jewish or Muslim or part of hte LGBTQ community. Hate is normalized and that’s the reason to not report or to not reach out.”

The organization will use the feedback from the event when creating new programs and initiatives to address hate activity on the local level.

Angelina Hicks is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact her at ahicks@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @angelinahicks13.

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