LOS ANGELES — Local law enforcement officials said last week they are committed to working together to stem hate crimes and urged the public to report any attacks, vandalism or other incidents motivated primarily by hatred of a particular group.
Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer was joined by LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, District Attorney Jackie Lacey and Assistant Sheriff Anthony La Berge at City Hall Nov. 23 to assure the public that they will put their resources toward prosecuting people who perpetrate hate crimes.
Feuer, describing such acts as “un-American,” pointed to a recent incident in which an El Camino Real High School student reported that a classmate tried to pull off her hijab head covering.
Feuer said “victims of hate crimes need to know that we will stand up for them and that we’re here to protect them, that we will vigorously prosecute hate crimes.”
Lacey said “hate crimes committed against anyone in our community will be backed with a strong response by law enforcement and prosecutors.”
The number of reported hate crimes grew 7 percent nationwide last year, which includes a 67 percent jump in crimes directed at Muslims, according to FBI figures.
In the Los Angeles area, the county’s Human Relations Commission found that following seven years of decline, reported hate crimes grew for the first time by 24 percent, with Muslims seeing a 38 percent increase, according to Feuer.
Authorities consider hate crimes to be those acts committed because of antipathy based on someone’s real or perceived race, skin color, national origin, ethnicity, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, disability or religion, Lacey said.
Misdemeanor hate crime offenders face up to a year in jail and as much as a $5,000 fine, while felony hate crimes carry a sentence of up to three years in state prison and as much as $10,000 in penalties, Lacey said.
Beck said that unlike “traditional crimes” that typically affect one person or a small group of people, the repercussions of hate crimes tend to permeate through the community.
“When your car is stolen, or your window is broken, that doesn’t affect your neighbors,” Beck said. “When somebody puts a swastika on a garage door, when somebody attacks somebody because of their religion, because of their sexual orientation … it affects the whole country, because we all feel unsafe, we all feel uncertain.”
The day prior to the press conference, Los Angeles County supervisors called on residents and county departments to speak out against hate crimes in the wake of the presidential election and asked the Sheriff’s Department to reach out to vulnerable communities.
Supervisor Hilda Solis recommended that the county take a stand, citing a series of verbal and physical assaults on residents.
“People in the county are being targeted because of their ethnicity, gender, race, religion, and we need to act now. This motion calls our communities to stand in unison and speak out against these acts of bullying, discrimination and hate violence,” Solis said. “We are calling on our Sheriff’s Department, law enforcement agencies and County Office of Education to help us maintain a safe environment for everyone to work, learn and live in.”
The board’s vote in support was unanimous.
Following the vote, Solis held a rally in Grand Park, where supporters held heart-shaped signs reading “Stop Hate” in English and Spanish.
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl spoke about her family’s history of fleeing the slaughter of Jews in Russia and persecution by Nazis, as well as her election as the first openly gay member of the California Legislature.
Danger is multiplied “when a government gets involved in hatred and discrimination,” Kuehl said. “We need to fight back.”
Solis, the first Latina to serve in the U.S. cabinet, said grassroots, local efforts would be needed to combat the threat of discriminatory federal policies.
“It seems that standing up for our people’s constitutional rights is going to fall on the hands of state and local governments,” Solis said.
Earlier, during the Nov. 22 board meeting, Solis previewed a separate motion to protect immigrants from any federal mass deportation.
Kuehl said pushing back might put federal funding at risk, but said she was ready to work with others to “throw a monkey wrench in this administration’s plan.”
Authorities said hate crimes can be reported by calling the toll-free “ASKLAPD” line at (877) 275-5273.