By Randall Yip, AsAmNews Executive Editor
California Attorney General Rob Bonta Friday addressed the growing number of hate crimes in the state and talked about the possibility of making it easier to prosecute such crimes.
“Our fight for inclusion and progress is far from over,” said Bonta, the state’s first Filipino American attorney general and the second Asian American.
He addressed a virtual gathering of alternative media attended by AsAmNews and many others from the Asian American community.
The latest report from the Attorney General’s office released this summer found anti-Asian hate crimes increased 177.5% in 2021 over the previous year. In all, law enforcement reported 247 hate crimes against the Asian American community.
That’s the sharpest increase, but only the second highest number of incidents- exceeded only by anti-Black hate crimes with a total of 518 incidents. That’s a 12.5 percent increase.
“I had encouraged all the prosecutors to set up a hate crime unit in their office. To work with AAPI communities and all communities to listen and work with them. To have a common understanding on what is a hate crime and what is not,” Bonta said.
He acknowledged it’s difficult to prove hate crimes because prosecutors must show the motivation behind the crime is to target a protected group because of their race, gender, sexual orientation or religion.
“In absence of the law being changed, one of the set of recommendations is to collect evidence that can capture all the factual components of the crime including the discriminatory animus- the intent to target a particular community,” he said.
Words matter. He encouraged victims to write down the exact words said during the crime as soon as the incident is over. Use of racial slurs and other racist statements can be used as proof that someone was targeted due to their race.
He said accountability is important and said the belief that someone will be arrested is also a deterrent.
He said members of the legislature have discussed how to make it easier to prove a hate crime and he looked forward to what they might come up with.
It remains unclear if a bill would be introduced and he declined to name any legislators who are considering it.
“That can be painful when we know an incident is a hate crime, but it’s not charged and proven.”
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