This month San Diego County is participating in the statewide United Against Hate Week campaign, an anti-hate awareness effort to call for local civic action to stop the hate and biases that pose a dangerous threat to the safety and civility of neighborhoods, towns, and cities. Unfortunately, hate crimes have increased across our nation, state, and region. By learning about hate crimes and how to stand against them and report them, we can make everyone safer.
For those who don’t already know, prosecuting and preventing hate crimes is a priority for me as District Attorney. In recent years, we’ve tripled the number of hate crimes prosecutions, sending an unwavering message that hate crimes will not be tolerated. Last year alone, we prosecuted 30 hate crimes cases, up from 21 in 2020.
We recognize the distinctive fear and stress suffered by victims of hate crimes, including the potential for reprisal, escalation of violence, and the far-reaching negative consequences that hate crimes have on our community.
A hate incident is an act, which is bias-motivated, but does not rise to the level of a hate crime. For example, if someone uses a racial slur against another it probably isn’t a hate crime, rather a hate incident. It’s important to understand the difference between an act that is understandably upsetting, and an act motivated by hate or bias that is a crime.
A hate crime is against an individual or property that is substantially motivated by bias against the victim’s:
• Sexual orientation
• Victim’s association with any above group
In 2020, I set up an online reporting form and hotline on our public website where anyone can report a suspected hate crime they witnessed in San Diego County. The tool was partly in response to reports of hate-related incidents aimed at the Asian community across the nation in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The online reporting tool, email and phone number are available for reporting of any type of suspected hate crime.
We know that people often don’t report hate crimes because of fear or shame, and we wanted to provide a direct avenue to encourage victims or witnesses to hate crimes to report. People can and should continue to report hate crimes to their local police departments and Sheriff’s Department. This additional reporting mechanism will act as a safety net and help ensure reports are reviewed and shared by law enforcement.
If you have been a victim of hate crime, here are tips on what to do:
- If you are seriously injured, call 911 or get to the hospital immediately.
- Whether or not you are injured, report the crime.
- To help yourself, it is important to do at least some of the following:
- See a doctor to treat and document even minor physical injuries.
- Take pictures of any physical injuries or damages to property, even if police already did so.
- If the crime is vandalism, let the police see and photograph the damage before you clean and/or repair.
- If possible, get witnesses’ names, addresses and telephone numbers.
- Write down as many facts about the incident as you can remember.
- Seek a therapist to assist with the emotional aspects of the attack.
- Learn the names of the police officers and prosecutors working on the case and keep in touch with them.
- Get copies of police reports and check them for accuracy.
- Attend necessary court hearings, whether you are subpoenaed, including arraignment, bail review and sentencing.
- If possible, make a statement in court to the judge about threats, direct or indirect, and possible fears.
As your District Attorney, I’m committed to increasing communication and accessibility between the DA’s Office and the public. I hope these consumer and public safety tips have been helpful.