LOS ANGELES - Two middle-age gay men beaten near the Center in Long Beach in a high-profile case, a black man in metro Los Angeles chased down and set upon by seven Latinos. These were among the 489 crimes reported as being spurred by bias or prejudice in the 2011 Hate Crimes Report, released Wednesday by the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations.
After three straight years of dramatic declines, reported hate crimes rose in Los Angeles for the first time last year, although they remained well below the average for the past 20 years, according to a report issued Wednesday by the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations.
Reported hate crimes last year jumped 14.5 percent from 427 to 489, which is still the second lowest number since before 1990.
Although experts say only a handful of potential hate crimes are reported as such, those that are paint "a vivid picture of hatred," said Kathy Feng, president of the commission.
"This is surprising after (hate crimes) fell dramatically for three years,"
Robin Toma, executive director of the Commission on Human Relations, said of the uptick. "This is also counter to a 4 percent drop in the state."
Regionally, despite Halloween attacks on two gay men last year, Long Beach and the South Bay actually saw a reduction in reported hate crimes from 50 to 39, a reduction of 22 percent.
Toma said the reduction in the Long Beach and South Bay areas were positive signs that partnerships between groups such as the Center and California Conference on Equality and Justice are paying dividends in lowering the rate of hate crimes.
The San Fernando Valley had the highest number of reported hate crimes, with 134 last year, up from 109 in 2010, an increase of 23 percent.
Toma said San Fernando Valley showed that in addition to the high numbers, the Valley had a wide diversity of hate crimes spread across religious, racial and even white supremacist categories.
"That tells us that broad work needs to be done," Toma said of educating residents about tolerance.
The number in the San Gabriel Valley went up from 32 to 39, up 22 percent last year.
Although the San Fernando Valley had the highest number of reported hate crimes, it ranked third in percentage at 6 per 100,000 residents, behind the Metro area (10.7) and Antelope Valley (9.4)
According to the report, all major categories of hate crimes increased in L.A. County.
Crimes based on race, national origin and sexual orientation rose 13 percent, while religiously motivated crimes jumped 24 percent.
Toma cautioned that some of the numbers can be skewed.
For example, while the percentage of religious hate crimes increased 24 percent from 76 to 94, Toma said 10 of those 18 crimes were committed by a serial vandal who painted swastikas in Santa Monica.
Although Toma agreed the small sample size of reported hate crimes could potentially skew data in a single year, the trend over 20 years, particularly the consistent fall in hate crimes since 2001 from a high of 1,031 is statistically compelling.
He said it also shows that his group's efforts to combat hate crimes, particularly in educating youth, have been effective.
Or as Amanda Susskind , regional director of the Anti-Defamation League said, "If there's a takeaway from this (for kids) it's that hate is not hip."
Along the racial divide the results were mixed. Blacks were the most targeted group for hate crimes, 60 percent, despite only making up 8 percent of the population, according to Toma. Anti-black crime rose 24 percent. In addition, 65 percent of black victims were targeted by Latinos.
Conversely, anti-Latino crime fell 34 percent to its lowest numbers more than a decade. This was mirrored by a statewide drop of 26 percent. In addition, the percentage of Latino victims targeted by blacks fell from 68 percent to 41 percent.
Another positive result is that violent hate crimes were down, with simple assaults falling from 57 to 49 and aggravated assaults declining from 60 to 40.
Sexual orientation motivated 25 percent of all hate crimes, up 13 percent from the previous year. These were also the most serious, with 71 percent being violent, significantly higher than racial or religious crimes.
The Commission has been producing its hate crimes reports since 1980, from data submitted by sheriff and police agencies as well as schools and community organizations.
Of religiously motivated crimes, 77 percent were against Jews and Jewish institutions.
The state describes hate crimes as those in which there is evidence that a substantial factor in committing the crime was bias or prejudice against race, religion, national origin, disability, gender or sexual orientation.
Total Reported Hate Crimes by Year in LA County
1991 - 672
1992 - 736
1993 - 783
1994 - 776
1995 - 793
1996 - 995
1997 - 820
1998 - 769
1999 - 859
2000 - 933
2001 - 1,031
2002 - 804
2003 - 691
2004 - 502
2005 - 632
2006 - 596
2007 - 763
2008 - 729
2009 - 593
2010 - 427
2011 - 489
Source: Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations