Monday, 23 November 2009

LA, Glendale hate crime report: decrease but problem remains - Armenians, Jews, gays targeted in 2008

Hate crimes decrease
Race motivated most in county, followed by sexual orientation and religion
By Veronica Rocha
November 20, 2009

Glendale News Press

LOS ANGELES — Religious hate crimes, including a tagging incident at Glendale’s St. Peter Armenian Church, increased last year throughout Los Angeles County, according to a county report released Thursday.

Religion was the basis for third-largest group of hate crimes reported in Los Angeles County in 2008, according to the county’s Commission on Human Relations annual report. Hate crimes based on a person’s race or sexual orientation made up the largest and second-largest groups, respectively.

“Hate doesn’t have to lead to more hate,” said Robin Toma, the commission’s executive director.

Hate crimes throughout the county that were motivated by religion increased from 105 in 2007 to 120 in 2008, according to the report.

In the area that includes Glendale, La Crescenta, La Cañada Flintridge and Burbank, there were 12 hate crimes last year. That was a steep drop from the 31 that occurred in 2007, a 61% decrease, said Marshall Wong, who helped author the commission’s report.

Race-based hate crimes in Glendale dropped from 25 in 2007 to seven last year. Sexual orientation and disability-based hate crimes also decreased, he said.

Hate-related aggravated assaults dropped from 13 in 2007 to zero in 2008, Wong said.

In Glendale, the race most discriminated against were Jews last year, with Armenians not far behind, with four and three hate crimes suffered, respectively.

The greatest percentage of religious hate crimes were vandalism, followed by intimidation. Most religious hate crimes occurred at homes and religious sites.

The only hate crime reported in 2008 in Glendale was tagging that was spray painted onto St. Peter Armenian Church, Sgt. Tim Feeley said.

A 2-foot-by-2-foot crescent and star was spray-painted on a wall outside the church, which police said was meant to intimidate Armenians by invoking the Turkish flag.

The modern Republic of Turkey has refused to recognize the Armenian Genocide in which 1.5 million Armenians were killed between 1915 and 1918 at the hands of the Ottoman Empire.

Overall, hate crimes decreased in Glendale, from eight in 2007 to one in 2008.

“These types of crimes are so personal,” Feeley said.

The city doesn’t have any known hate groups that target residents based on their race, gender sexual orientation or religion, he said.

Glendale, once a bastion for white supremacy groups like the Ku Klux Klan, has changed dramatically as its population has become more diverse, officials said.

“I think Glendale has become a lot more open than in the past,” Feeley said. “We are far more diverse than we used to be. I think initially there was a reluctance to accept the change that Glendale was going through.”

Many residents, he said, have accepted Glendale’s diverse landscape.

“I think people are getting along a little bit better,” he said. “I think it’s really fortunate when you look at Glendale being the third-largest city in L.A. to only have one hate crime is really significant. It’s a testament to the residents that are getting along.”

Hate crimes against Armenians, blacks, whites, Asians, Middle-Easterners and transgender people decreased in 2008, according to the Commission on Human Relations report.

Hate crimes overall declined from 763 in 2007 to 728 in 2008 in Los Angeles County.

But the annual tally was the second largest since 2002, Toma said.

Hate crimes in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s jurisdictions dropped 25%, Sheriff Lee Baca said.

But crimes motivated by hate, especially ones committed by gangs, continue to exist.

“This is always troubling,” Baca said. “We want to have none of this to happen because all people are entitled to exercise who they are under the spirit of the American constitution.”

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