Hate Crime Numbers Rise
Back in January 2021, 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee went on his daily walk around his Anza Vista neighborhood and was violently shoved to the pavement in what his family calls an unprovoked act of anti-Asian violence. The elderly man did not survive his injuries. His case is among the many attacks documented last year that prove hate crimes against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community haven’t stopped.
Despite efforts to address the problem, the numbers continued to increase in 2021. A new report from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino shows another surge in anti-AAPI hate crimes in major cities across the country last year. When compared to 2020 figures, for example, San Francisco saw an astonishing 576% increase, while Los Angeles experienced a 173% jump.
To help address the problem, I introduced AB 1947 this month, requiring all California law enforcement agencies to adopt an updated hate crimes policy — which unbelievably, is not required by the state. The protocols would be standardized, including how authorities recognize, report and respond to hate crimes. We can’t have one jurisdiction treat a hate crime one way, while another locale a few miles away does nothing. That leads to an incomplete and inaccurate picture of hate in our state.
Even before the pandemic, a 2018 state audit found law enforcement in California inadequately identified, reported or responded to hate crimes. The findings further concluded the state’s hate crimes are under-reported by 14% due, in part, to outdated or nonexistent policies. When there is consistency to the responses victims receive and the information being collected, we can enact better solutions and appropriate needed resources.
I’m fortunate that my proposal has the support of Monthanus Ratanapakdee, Vicha’s daughter, who has begun raising awareness about what hate can do since her father’s death. She believes by requiring police to handle hate crimes the same way under AB 1947, victims and families can get the justice they deserve. Authorities would no longer be able to be dismissive or take things lightly. Hate crimes carry penalty enhancements and should apply to appropriate cases.
The San Francisco Police Department was one of the early adopters of a hate crimes unit in 1990. A year later, they were instrumental in the formation of the Bay Area Hate Crime Investigator’s Association, comprised of officers from nine counties in our region. Their members interact with each other, working toward a common goal of ridding communities of bias-related crimes. That type of cooperation is needed throughout our state.
While my bill was inspired by AAPI hate, the legislation would apply to all races, religions, disabilities, genders, sexual orientation, and other protected characteristics. The Cal State San Bernardino report I mentioned earlier also noted hate crimes were up 11% overall last year, with African Americans remaining the most targeted community. There has also been a resurgence in antisemitic hate crimes.
This has to end. Crimes motivated by hate are not just attacks on innocent individuals, but also on our communities. Stronger and more consistency in the handling of such crimes sends a message that hate will not be tolerated. Monthanus recently told marchers at an anti-hate rally that her father would say to be strong and keep fighting. I will. Won’t you join me? You can sign the petition on my website (a19.asmdc.org) to support AB 1947.
Phil Ting represents the 19th Assembly District, which includes the west side of San Francisco along with the communities of Broadmoor, Colma and Daly City.