Latino vs. Black Violence Drives Hate Crimes Up

Driven by racial violence between blacks and Latinos, hate crimes in Los Angeles rose by 28% in 2007, hitting a five-year high, according to a report issued in July by the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission.

This sharp rise in racially motivated criminal activity contrasted dramatically with the overall decline in the Los Angeles crime rate last year.

The report documented 763 reported hate crimes, dominated by assault and vandalism. The largest category of crimes involved Latino suspects targeting black victims; the second largest was black suspects assaulting Latino victims. Officials cited racially motivated violence committed by race-based street gangs as "a major factor" in the spike in reported hate crimes. "Latino gang members were responsible for 34% of Latino-on-black [hate] crimes," the report stated. "In contrast, gang members were responsible for 42% of black-on-Latino [hate] crimes."

Although many of the suspects in both categories were gang members, few of the victims were associated with gangs, according to the report.

In December 2006, an Intelligence Report cover story showed that Latino gang members, acting on orders from Mexican Mafia "shot callers" inside California prisons, were randomly targeting African-Americans in certain L.A. neighborhoods. Now, black gangs apparently are retaliating in kind.

"Latino gang members shoot blacks not because they're members of a rival gang but because of their skin color," Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca wrote in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece that underlined the race-hate aspect of the violence. "Likewise, black gang members shoot Latinos because they're brown. … Gang affiliation does not matter. Only the color of the victim's skin matters."

The Human Relations Commission report also noted that Pasadena, Calif., police had investigated 69 robberies and beatings of Latino immigrant workers in 2007 that were allegedly perpetrated by black offenders. Although investigators viewed these crimes as racially motivated — observing that "the act of taking the victim's property appeared to be an afterthought" — all 69 beatings were excluded from the commission's 2007 hate crime tally since they lacked "overt acts by the suspects that would prove race as the motive."