California Attorney General Rob Bonta joined Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan and several local leaders on Monday, Oct. 23, to discuss hate crimes and ways to combat them.
The discussion was the latest stop for Bonta in a series of 14 meetings he has been holding in cities around the state with elected officials, law enforcement officers and community members to discuss the best ways to tackle incidents of hate. The purpose of the meetings, which he’ll be wrapping up soon, is to inform policy-making and bring awareness to the hate communities are experiencing in California.
“Irvine is an incredibly diverse city,” Khan said at Monday’s meeting in Irvine. “However, we’ve not been immune to hate incidents or hate crimes in our city. We know this isn’t going away, and we have to do our part to make sure that our communities and our cities feel safe.”
Over the last five years, hate activity has been on the rise locally, according to the latest OC Hate Crimes Report. Hate crimes have increased by 75%, and hate incidents – action motivated by hateful bias that is not a crime – rose by 142%. Statewide, officials reported a 20.2% increase in hate crimes in 2022 (hate incidents are not reported for California).
There were 450 reported hate crimes and incidents in Orange County in 2022, and more than half of those were motivated by race, ethnicity or national origin bias.
Data like this helps tell the story, Bonta said, but behind every number is a person.
“We’re here to talk about how we can make a difference together,” Bonta said. “We’re here the (Department of Justice) to ask what do you need from us? What’s working in this community? How can we work better together?”
Yulan Chung, CEO of the South Coast Chinese Cultural Association, said when one person is affected by hate, the entire community feels it. She and other community members on the panel said they’d like to see more collaboration, accountability and funding go toward addressing anti-hate work.
Bonta said in his discussions with cities throughout California, one thing he has learned is the need for short-term and long-term plans.
“There are hate crimes happening now. They need prevention when possible and accountability if we’re unable to prevent them. That’s now,” Bonta said. “Long term, we need more education, more ethnic studies, more circles of cross-cultural awareness.”
Tuesday’s roundtable also included OC District Attorney Todd Spitzer, Irvine Police Chief Michael Kent and Amr Shabaik, legal policy director for the Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations. Other panelists were John Gutierrez with the Life and Hope Foundation, Christopher Meza, criminal justice chair for the NAACP, and Peter Levi, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League.
One of the things that Irvine does is hold events that connect community leaders with state representatives, Khan said.
“My ears are on the ground all the time. I’m meeting with these community leaders almost on a daily basis with phone calls or emails. That’s how we’re able to react at a local level,” Khan said. “Make sure they have all the resources they need, connecting them with resources that maybe we don’t have at the local level. And at the end of the day, being that voice that says, ‘I’m here with you, I’m going to stand with you, and we’re going to do everything we can to protect you.’”
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