Gangs Often Drive Hate Crimes

Today, it's the street gangs, primarily black and Latino that are the real problem, and until law enforcement and the public puts these gangs in check, they'll continue to destroy lives and communities while motivated by blind hate.

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The flight from urban blight in Los Angeles expanded into the desert north of Los Angeles. Former Angelinos have settled into newer, less crowded and more affordable residential areas like Canyon Country, Lancaster, and Palmdale. Unfortunately some of these new settlers come from old ghettos and barrios. They bring their old hates with them.

One hot June day in 2011, two black 13-year-olds were swimming in the pool of their Palmdale apartment building. The two weren't gang members themselves, but had been the victims of gang bullies. They had been harassed in school and in the neighborhood for having Latino friends, which was far from their thoughts at that moment.

Suddenly four Latino gang members approached shouting, "Southside!" They hurled racial epitaphs at the two young blacks, calling them "porch monkeys," "banana eaters," and "slaves." They challenged the boys and attacked them. The mother of one of the victims ran to intervene and protect her son. One of the Latinos yelled, "Fuck you, nigger!" He punched the mother, and grabbed her hair. The father of one of the victims then responded to the commotion. Two of the Latino gang members brandished butcher knives, threatened him, and yelled "I'll fuckin' kill you niggers!"

In August, a male Latino was walking home from a friend's house in Bellflower, a suburb of south east of Los Angeles when two black males jumped out of a vehicle and yelled "Fuck you, wet back!" They punched him; knocked him to the ground; and continued beating him in the torso and head.

For many years, there have been individuals and organizations that make a living by calling others racists. To hear them talk, the American White Man is the only race hater that should be watched. These vocal people see the Ku Klux Klan and Nazis under every rock. They are dumb and blind to the more active hate groups that carry out racially motivated violence.

According to the California Penal Code (sections 422.55 to 422.95), hate crime charges may be filed when there is evidence that bias, hatred, or prejudice based on the victim's real or perceived race/ethnicity, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, gender, or sexual orientation is a substantial factor in the commission of the offence.

Even gang graffiti can be a hate crime when it is disparaging to a class of people protected by hate crime legislation. The use of hate group symbols or slogans and racial epithets in tagging and vandalism can be considered a hate crime.

There are state, federal, and even international laws against racial discrimination and basic human rights. These laws include the 1960 Civil Rights Act (18 USC SS 245 (6) (2)) and more recently the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act signed by President Barack Obama on Oct. 28, 2009.

In the early 2000s, my LASD Major Crimes Bureau unit helped to draft and implement the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department manual and procedure for the investigation of hate crimes. After many months of defining what would constitute a hate crime and codifying how the crime should be prosecuted, I presented an excellent rough draft developed primarily by detectives Chris Brandon and Michael Duran. To my shock, the draft was rejected. Upon questioning my lieutenant as to why, he responded, "Whites cannot be victims of hate crimes." The draft Brandon and Duran crafted had been constructed to protect all races from hate crimes.

Most crime is underreported, but hate crimes are more commonly underreported than most other types of crime. Sometimes the victims are immigrants, and they have cultural or linguistic issues. They often lack a working knowledge of our criminal justice system. Often they come from countries with a history of police abuses and insensitive treatment. As a result, only a small percentage of these incidents are reported.

Even if the victim informs the authorities, hate crimes have a low priority, or there may be no formal hate crime policies and procedures. There is often a reluctance to admit that the city or community has a hate problem. There are often multiple aspects and motivations for these crimes and when multiple suspects are involved (such as when gangs are suspected) all the suspects may not be motivated by the same hate. The investigator is then burdened with proving the bias as a motive. As a result, a lesser included criminal charges are usually what gets filed.

When gang members are suspects in hate crimes, and especially when they are the victims, all these causes for underreporting are magnified. According to the gang's code of conduct, gang members can't cooperate or "snitch" to authorities. The ultimate hate crime of course is to murder the victim, and rarely are gang murders prosecuted as hate crimes.

These hate crimes occur, not only in city streets but in schools, juvenile facilities, jails, and prisons. Commonly called race riots, they have been occurring in these institutions for many years. They're almost never reported as hate crimes. Authorities have great difficulty in establishing which group was the aggressor and who was only attempting to defend himself.

In October, the Los Angeles County Commission of Human Relations released its 2011 report on hate crimes. In an Oct. 24, 2012 article in the Los Angeles Times by Jason Song, the commission's executive director said, "This is a reminder that we're in no way a post-racial society," and "When you have hundreds and hundreds of hate crimes, it's way too many."

According to the report and based on 2010 U.S. Census Records, 27.8% of the Los Angeles  population is white, 8.3% black, 13.77% Asian or Pacific Islander, and 47.7% are people who identify as Latinos. The remaining 2.5% was divided between mixed races, Native American, and others. There were 489 incidents of hate crime reported in 2011. This represents the declining incidents to the second lowest total since the high of 2001 with the high of 1,031 reported hate crimes. But it is 15% higher than last year.

Although white hate groups typically are thought of as being the major offender, only 21% of the reported hate crimes were attributed to whites with supremacist ideology, and most frequently these were cases of writing offensive graffiti such as swastikas. This is 3% higher than last year.

Nearly half of the incidents occurring in 2011 were racially motivated. Overall, African Americans were most frequently the victims, comprising 60% of the total number of reported (154) incidents, and 65% of anti-black crimes were committed by Latino suspects. Of the 64 total incidents of Latino-on-black hate crimes 67% were gang related. Blacks as suspects on Latino reported incidents were down from 32 in 2010 to only 11 for 2011. The report went on to say, "Hate crimes committed between these two communities has consistently been one of the most serious hate crime phenomenon in Los Angeles County" and the "rate of violence in these crimes is extremely high."

Between 2010 and 2011, the number of crimes in which gang members were suspects grew by 43%, and the gang category was generally used when the suspects were clearly identified as gang members by shouting out their affiliation or by marking their graffiti with gang identifiers. "The actual number of hate crimes committed by gang members may be much higher than recorded," the report noted.

In the past, Los Angeles street gangs targeted other street gangs of the same ethnic makeup. About 99% of the violence was Latino on Latino, black on black, whites on rival white groups, and Asians on Asians. Many of these groups co-existed in the same neighborhoods or in close proximity but rarely attacked other races.

However, for several decades prison gangs utilized racial hatred to recruit and motivate new members. Brown, black, and white prison gangs teach racial hate. This hate spilled out of the prison in the early 1990s and has infected street gangs and young people in "at risk" neighborhoods.

The incidents mentioned in the beginning of this article are taken from the 2011 Los Angeles Commission's hate crime report. Today, it's the street gangs, primarily black and Latino that are the real problem, and until law enforcement and the public puts these gangs in check, they'll continue to destroy lives and communities while motivated by blind hate.


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