Nov 15, 2023 - News

Bay Area on guard for increase in hate crimes

Photo of a crowd of people marching down the streets with Pride flags and "Stand up to racism" signs

Thousands of demonstrators march down Market Street to a rally against hate and bigotry at Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco on Aug. 26, 2017. Photo: Paul Chinn/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

While recent FBI data shows a drop in reported hate crimes in San Francisco, local advocates are emphasizing the need to remain vigilant amid rising anti-LGBTQ sentiment, anti-Asian discrimination and fallout from the Israel-Hamas war across the country.

Driving the news: Bay Area officials and community partners are hosting anti-hate events for California's sixth annual United Against Hate Week (UAHW), ranging from bystander intervention trainings to a conversation with former white supremacists.

State of play: Reported hate crimes in the state are at their highest levels since 2001, according to the California attorney general's office and the state's Civil Rights Division (CRD).

  • Preliminary CRD statistics released this week show that the state's anti-hate hotline and resource network received over 500 reports of hate in its first six months.
  • Community leaders first spearheaded United Against Hate Week in response to white supremacist rallies in San Francisco and Berkeley in 2017.
  • "We need to send a message that there are many more of us who have a message of love and of peace than of the fringes who are focused on hate," Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) said in remarks Monday at CRD's kick-off event in Berkeley.

Zoom in: California and the larger U.S. both recorded an overall increase in reported hate crimes from 2021 to 2022, but FBI data shows that in San Francisco, they dropped from 114 to 36 — the lowest since 2016.

Yes, but: Hate crimes reported to police are just one data point for informing policy decisions.

  • "They never capture the full extent of the racism and hate in our communities," Cynthia Choi, co-executive director of the San Francisco-based civil rights group Chinese for Affirmative Action, told Axios.
  • People typically go to law enforcement if there's identifiable criminal activity, but that often excludes everyday acts of hate and discrimination, added Choi, who serves on California's Commission on the State of Hate and co-founded the Stop AAPI Hate reporting center.

Of note: Her team has identified patterns of "reporting fatigue" among Asian Americans who feel that "nothing can be done."

  • "They don't know who the person is, it's a fleeting situation, they don't want to be entangled with police or fear unequal treatment," she said.
  • There's also been concern that the FBI's data collection process itself is vulnerable to inconsistencies.
  • Still, Choi said reporting hate incidents, even non-criminal activities, is critical to understanding how to prevent them in the first place.

What to watch: City attorney David Chiu told Axios that San Francisco has bolstered resources for tackling hate crimes but noted "we've already begun to see increases" in antisemitic and anti-Muslim incidents in recent weeks.


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