May 23, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Axios interview: California AG Rob Bonta on rising anti-Asian hate crimes

Rob Bonta talking in a mic.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta at the Gold Gala by Gold House held at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on May 6 in Los Angeles. Photo: Mark Von Holden/Variety via Getty Images

California Attorney General Rob Bonta says that fighting rising anti-Asian hate is personal to him as the state's first Filipino American attorney general.

Why it matters: In an Axios interview, Bonta said he worries about his mother taking public transportation but tries to stay focused to ensure police in the state gather more accurate data on hate crimes.

The big picture: Bonta, who is the second Asian American to occupy the position, is one of only a handful of Asian American attorneys general in the 50 states. Two others are Connecticut AG William Tong and Utah's Sean Reyes.

What he's saying: "Over the last two years... anti-AAPI hate crimes went up 107% (and that was) followed by an additional 177% increase the year before," Bonta tells Axios.

  • "As an Asian American, as during this time of hate against our community, my community... I feel the duty, obligation, responsibility, to step up and step in to take a leadership role."

Don't forget: Within two and a half weeks of taking office, Bonta created the Racial Justice Bureau with his office "to put a flag in the ground and say" racial injustice exists in California.

  • He launched several anti-racial discrimination and anti-hate initiatives and has toured the state to meet with cities and police departments on the need to fight hate crimes.

State of play: California initially had one of the lowest percentages of law enforcement agencies turning over crime data to the FBI last year, according to an Axios analysis of FBI data.

  • Only 2% of California's law enforcement agencies turned in crime data. Florida was the worst in the nation as just 0.3% of the state's law enforcement agencies turned over data, the review found.
  • Bonta's office said at the time that the state's Department of Justice was developing the California Incident Based Reporting System repository in line with the FBI's transition to the new reporting system.

The intrigue: In March, a supplemental report from the FBI showed that hate crimes in 2021 increased instead of dropping as the agency initially reported.

  • The report came as agencies, including some in California, were able to submit data to the FBI using the old crime reporting model.

What's next: Bonta said he is confident that California law enforcement agencies will move to the new system soon and is working to make sure police departments have the resources they need.

  • "We've reminded local law enforcement, and will continue to do so, of their duty to report and the need to get that information so that we can act on it," he said.
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