Orange County saw yet another rise in combined hate crimes and incidents in 2021, which began escalating in 2015, according to a new local report tracking hate trends expected to be released today.

“There’s a lot of concern there,” said Orange County Human Relations CEO Allison Lehmann Edwards in a Wednesday phone interview. “Anyone can be the target of hate, but often hate crimes and hate incidents are also designed to affect a whole community.”

She said if people don’t feel safe in OC, the county will not thrive over time.

“We don’t want people living in fear. This is a place where we hope people come to thrive and to feel welcomed, and know that their contributions are welcomed,” Edwards said.

The human relations commission, which follows and tracks annual hate crime trends in the county and produces a report in an effort to strengthen prevention programming and raise awareness, is expected to release the 2021 annual report during a 10 a.m. webinar today.

According to a county news release, the new report reflects a 6% increase in hate crimes and incidents in 2020 jumping from 375 reported crimes and incidents to 398 reported crimes and incidents in 2021.

Edwards said elected officials across the county need to understand the impacts of divisive rhetoric.

“We all need to keep communicating that to those who have influence, and who are charged with that responsibility to lead us through this era,” she said. “I don’t mean to oversimplify this, but it feels like we’re in a time where we are unlikely to recognize each other’s humanity.”

It’s the seventh year in a row that the total number of reported hate crimes and incidents combined have increased in OC, although the number of hate incidents alone saw a slight drop in 2019 before shooting up significantly in 2020. 

The number of reported hate crimes alone, however, did drop to 97 in 2021 from 112 in 2020. 

The combined numbers started to increase in 2015 after a downward trend ended in 2014.

Hate activity in Orange County has more than doubled in the past five years and in 2021 there were three times more hate incidents reported than in 2017, according to information provided by Edwards.

Click here for the State Attorney General’s definitions of a hate crime and a hate incident.

It’s not just Orange County seeing an uptick in hate.

Across California, hate crimes rose in 2021 – increasing about 33% from 2020, according to a State Attorney General’s report released earlier this year.

“Reported hate crime has reached a level we haven’t seen in California since the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11,” Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a news release earlier this year.

The state report found that anti-Black crimes were the most prevalent, increasing 12.5% from 456 in 2020 to 513 in 2021 and hate crimes motivated by bias towards sexual orientation increased by almost 50% from 205 to 303 during that time.

Anti-Asian crimes shot up by 177.5% from 89 in 2020 to 247 in 2021, according to the report.

Statewide, antisemitic hate crimes increased by 32% from 115 in 2020 to 152 in 2021, according to the same report.

Read the State Report Here.

The state report indicates a 61% increase in hate crimes in California over the past five years. 

Orange County has experienced a 73% increase in hate crimes in that same time period, according to information provided by Edwards.

Meanwhile the county’s report comes after the Anti-Defamation League released an audit in April that found there were 62 antisemitic incidents in the Orange County and Long Beach area in 2021 – nearly double that of 2020 when the ADL tracked 34 incidents in the region.

[Read: Jewish Hate Spiked Across Orange County and Long Beach in 2021, Audit Finds]

According to Edwards, there has been 26 times more antisemitic incidents in OC since 2017.

Also since 2017, there’s been a 5,000% increase in hate incidents towards Asian Americans and a 52% increase in hate incidents towards Black people, according to information Edwards provided.

The number of hate incidents against Latinos has doubled from 2017 and hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community has increased by 2,100% since 2017 too, according to Edwards.

The 2020 OC Hate Crime Report

According to the commission’s report released last year, there were 112 hate crimes and 263 hate incidents in Orange County last year.

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

The commission’s 2020 report showed a massive surge in hate incidents towards the county’s Asian American and Pacific Islander community with incidents going up 1,800% from 2019.

Last year, local Asian American leaders and organizations spoke out against the rise in hate incidents holding multiple events calling for an end to Asian hate.

[Read: Community Calls to Stop Asian Hate Continue in Orange County in Wake of Atlanta Killings]

Residents, community members and city staff gathered on March 19 to address the recent uptick in Asian hate crimes. Credit: JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

Hate incidents towards Asian Americans didn’t only increase in Orange County that year.

In California and across the U.S., the community has experienced a surge in hate incidents since the start of the pandemic.

[Read: Hate Crimes Increase Throughout California and OC, According to New State Report]

Between March 19, 2020 to Dec. 2021, the United States saw a total of 10,905 hate incidents against Asian American reported to the Stop AAPI Hate reporting center, a group that launched in 2020.

Even with the surge in Asian hate, the most commonly reported hate crimes in OC were against Black people in 2020, according to the 2020 county report.

This is despite Black people making up 2% of the county’s residents.

To read the 2020 OC Hate Crime Report, click here.

Addressing Hate

As reported hate crimes and incidents keep increasing annually, the Human Relations commission is looking at ways to curb the trend.

[Read: Orange County Human Relations Council Looks to Curb Rising Hate Crimes]

The OC Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in December to approve a $1 million proposal by the Human Relations Commission to expand language accessibility and ways to report hate, expand support services for victims and launch a multilingual campaign to raise awareness.

The initiative is called Hate Hurts Us All and allows people to report hate crimes through text, email or phone calls and through various languages like Spanish, Vietnamese, Persian, Arabic, Korean, Chinese and Filipino.

“That outreach is crucial. We need to continue to provide that in language accessibility for all these services. But that seems to be showing a lot of promise in terms of providing what people need to actually take the time to make that report,” Edwards said.

Edwards points to the surge in Anti-Asian hate over the past two years in helping get people to report.

“A lot more people learned what hate crime is, and a lot more people became aware of the resources.”

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at helattar@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.

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