Newly released data shows hate crimes fell last year in Long Beach despite surges in other California cities.
Long Beach police recorded 12 hate crimes in 2021, mostly targeted at LGBTQ and Black people, according to figures from the department. That’s down from 18 in 2020 and 23 in 2019.
The decline is a rarity, according to Professor Brian Levin, who tracks hate crime data at the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.
When compared to other cities with populations between 150,000 and 499,000, Long Beach was one of only three nationwide that saw a decline in hate crimes reported to their police agencies, Levin said.
And in neighboring Los Angeles, hate crimes surged more than 70% in 2021, he said, to the highest number recorded in the city since at least 1995. Other large cities such as San Diego, San Jose and San Fransico also experienced increases.
It’s not clear what caused Long Beach to buck the trend.
“Long Beach has many similar demographics as neighboring Los Angeles, so I would expect increases from Los Angeles to affect neighboring cities,” said Levin, who cautioned that the decline could be a statistical anomaly—because the local numbers are so small to begin with—or may be caused by underreporting, particularly in communities that may have a language barrier or stigma about talking to police.
Last year, Attorney General Rob Bonta said that more than half of hate crimes are believed to go unreported. Additionally, 88% of law enforcement agencies either did not report or reported zero hate crimes to the FBI in 2016.
And although Long Beach’s record of tracking hate crimes is better than some other large cities, it is still “hard to say whether it was an organic decrease,” said Levin.
LBPD Lt. James Richardson said the department follows the law in how it documents hate crimes and can’t speculate why their numbers are relatively low.
“As far as departmentally, we are on par,” Richardson said. “If we have a hate crime reported, it is thoroughly investigated.”
Data from Levin and the LBPD showed Long Beach bucked the trend in other ways as well.
The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism showed a double-digit increase in anti-Latino hate crimes nationwide. Long Beach—where Hispanics and Latinos make up more than 40% of the population—only reported one such case last year.
Furthermore, crimes targeting Asian people rose sharply nationwide, even doubling in Los Angeles, but Long Beach only recorded one anti-Asian hate crime in 2021.
“Local factors always play significant roles,” Levin said, noting that it’s unclear what’s causing Long Beach to go against the grain. “It’s a good time for Long Beach or other cities to do a little under-the-hood check with regards to training, outreach, and outreach in languages and spaces where victims aren’t always looked for.”
Out of Long Beach’s 12 hate crimes reported in 2021, seven were racially motivated while five targeted members of the LGBTQ community. Four of the reported hate crimes—or 33%—were aimed at Black people even though they make up just under 13% of the city’s population.
Hate crimes against members of the LGBTQ and Black communities were typically violent offenses as well, which included assaults with deadly weapons and armed robberies.
“LGBTQ people face disproportionate levels of violence, including hate crimes and/or hate incidents, yet there are few resources that are designed specifically for LGBTQ survivors of violence,” said Carlos Torres, executive director of the LGBTQ Center Long Beach. “When LGBTQ people experience violence, they face tremendous barriers when accessing traditional systems, as well as in gaining access to inclusive and affirming assistance.”
In a recent poll of Long Beach voters, researchers at Cal State Long Beach found LGBTQ people were the one demographic surveyed where a majority of respondents said they disapproved of the LBPD.
The trend of hate crimes frequently being targeted at LGBTQ and Black people appears to continue into 2022. Of the four hate crimes reported through May this year in Long Beach, three were against gay men, according to the LBPD’s data. The fourth is being investigated as racially motivated after a group of Hispanic or Latino gang members allegedly beat up, shot and killed a 24-year-old Black Inglewood resident in March.
Nationally, Black people have been the No. 1 most targeted group ever since hate crime data collection started in 1991, Levin said.
In 1996, 42% of all hate crimes nationwide targeted Black people, Levin said. That number dropped to 26% in 2019 despite more hate crimes being reported nationwide—the country’s lowest proportion ever, Levin said.
But in the wake of nationwide protests against police brutality following George Floyd’s murder, hate crimes targeting Black people jumped back up to around 35% in 2020.
“In 2021, we’re seeing a continuation of anti-Black being the number one target in a majority of cities,” according to Levin, who said there has been a change in trends in some cities such as San Francisco, which saw anti-Asian crimes top the list. And that’s with many cases going unreported, he emphasized.
The LBPD urged anyone who believes they have been the victim of a hate crime to call the hate crimes hotline at 562-433-8595, which is monitored by the LGBTQ Center Long Beach.