Over the last five years, Orange County has experienced a rise in hate-related crime, leading more cities to focus on creating public avenues to report hate activity. 

In its effort to help track hate crimes within Irvine and throughout Orange County, the Irvine Police Department recently contributed data to the Orange County Human Relations Commission’s 2021 Hate Crimes Report. 

In its most recent report on hate crimes, released in September, the 2021 report found significant increases in hate activity across Orange County, with nearly 400 hate-motivated instances reported in 2021.

With a combined total of 398 hate crimes and incidents reported in 2021, Orange County saw a 5% increase from the year prior, according to the report. 

This year, the Irvine Police Department has documented a combined total of 22 reported hate crimes and hate incidents. While the year is still a few months from being over, hate-motivated incidents have sharply decreased from 12 months prior. In 2021, the city of Irvine reported a total of 91 hate-motivated instances. 

Irvine Weekly spoke with Darcy Jones, a Crime Analyst Supervisor with the Irvine Police Department, about the department’s voluntary contribution to the county-wide report.

Comparatively, the report identifies hate crimes as using race, religion or sexual orientation as motivation to inflict bodily harm, intimidate or damage property. 

Alternatively, the report defined hate incidents as instances involving harassment, both verbal and online. The report also classified the public distribution of “discriminatory literature” as a hate incident.

Jones explained that IPD has been sharing hate crime data with the OC Human Relations Commission for many years, as mandated by the state. However, in more recent years the commission has sought data on hate incidents.   

In 2021, Jones said IPD worked with Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan to establish an anonymous hate-motivated activity reporting system via a portal.    

“We’re mandated by the state by the California Department of Justice to report hate crime – there’s no mandate to report hate incidents. We have gotten better at keeping track of hate incidents – especially more recently,” she said. “The number of hate incidents that we had tracked in 2021 more than quadrupled, our hate crimes doubled from seven to 14.”

Jones said Irvine’s total number of hate incidents increased from 18 in 2020 to 77 in 2021.

While increases in hate-motivated crime may be concerning, Jones said those outcomes are to be expected as more members of the community utilize the reporting tools.  

“That’s the intent. As with police departments, if it’s not reported to us, we don’t know about it. So, we want to know the extent of the problem so we can address it,” she said. “And then hold people accountable if it’s an actual crime.”  

In terms of pinpoint causation of these increases, Jones could not specify. But, as a crime analyst, she explained that part of her mission is to decipher the trends within the data in an effort to find patterns in crime occurrences – and identify the groups that the data impacts. 

“Where is it happening, who is it happening to – what we want to do is more community outreach,” she said. “We saw an increase in areas of what we call a bias – the bias is mainly against different races and religion. With the increase we saw, reported within the community was asain victims, African American victims, as well as Jewish and Muslin victims.”

Of utmost importance, Jones said, is continuing to maintain relationships and support those reporting groups.

“We have an interface, security partnership that we have fostered in Irvine. When certain holidays come around, we like to show our support and go out to those houses of worship, so we have a whole unit that keeps track of that information,” Jones explained. 

To continue strengthening the relationships within the community, IPD will be hosting a community police academy, where residents and community members can gain a better understanding of how police operate in Irvine. 

“It’s a nine-week program. We educate them about the Irvine Police Department,” she said. “A portion of that is a discussion about hate crimes and hate incidents.” 

In addition to the Irvine Police Department, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the University of California, Irvine voluntarily facilitated their records on hate crimes for this report.

While the single-digit percentage increase may seem insignificant, Jo-Anne P. Matsuba, Human Relations Commission Chair, said the rise in hate-motivated activity is steadily increasing.

In the report, Matsuba highlighted that hate-motivated crimes have increased more than 150% since 2017 – and more than 400% since 2007 – in Orange County.

“Hate-motivated behavior and incidents continue to increase at a rapid pace. Hate activity has steadily increased in Orange County – 424% increase compared to 10 years ago, and 165% increase compared to 5 years ago,” Matsuba wrote. “This rise in hate-motivated behavior has not only been seen and felt in our home but it mirrors what is happening across our nation.”

Despite the increase of instances in Orange County, Jones echoed the importance of continued reporting.

“As a crime analyst I want them to report everything. They may think that small crimes do not need to be reported to the police, but if we don’t know about them then we can’t do anything about it,” she explained. “When hate is part of that crime or that incident, then it’s even more important for us to know about it.”

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