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Hate Crime Reports In California Increased By 11 Percent In 2016

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

A volunteer cleans up racist graffiti painted on the side of a mosque in what officials are calling an apparent hate crime, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017, in Roseville, Calif.

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

Reports of hate crimes are up in California.

A report from the state Attorney General’s Office Monday found an 11.2 percent increase in incidents reported by local law enforcement agencies in 2016 compared to last year. That follows a similar increase from 2015 to 2016.

As they have for the last decade, hate crimes directed at black people remained the most numerous, at about 250 reported incidents--down from almost 500 in 2007, but 20 more than the year before.

Anti-LGBTQ hate crimes were the second-largest category and have stayed relatively flat over the past decade.

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Stanislaus State criminal justice professor Phyllis Gerstenfeld says the numbers should be taken with a grain of salt.

"We don’t know whether increased reports are because there really have been more hate crimes or whether because people are reporting them more often, and there’s really no way to tell," Gerstenfeld says.

The Attorney General's Office also cautions that reporting by local law enforcement agencies can vary based on how attuned officers are to recognizing hate crimes.

Anti-Muslim hate crimes have increased most dramatically, according to the data. They’ve nearly tripled from 13 in 2007 to 37 last year.

"There’s definitely been an increase," says Masih Fouladi of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which does its own tracking of anti-Islamic hate crimes. Gerstenfeld and Fouladi agree far more hate crimes occur than are reported.

"All the evidence indicates and every study I’ve seen indicates hate crimes are very badly underreported," Gerstenfeld says. "Most people estimate far less than a third of hate crimes are reported."

"There’s a little bit of skepticism in reporting these incidents to law enforcement," Fouladi says of the Muslim population. "In addition there’s cultural barriers and language barriers."

In 2015, CAIR found almost 200 hate crimes against Muslims. The state reported 40.

Ben Bradford

State Government Reporter

As the State Government Reporter, Ben covers California politics, policy and the interaction between the two. He previously reported on local and state politics, business, energy, and environment for WFAE in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Read Full Bio 

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