Berkeley ranks No. 5 in hate crime rate among California cities

Simran Sarin/Staff

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Berkeley has the fifth-highest hate crime rate out of all California cities with populations of more than 50,000, according to the FBI’s 2016 Hate Crime Statistics report.

Hate crimes, according to UCPD spokesperson Sabrina Reich, are defined as criminal acts or attempted criminal acts targeting people for their actual or perceived characteristics, including nationality, disability or religion.

In 2016, a total of 13 hate crimes were reported in Berkeley out of a population of 122,651.

The report, which was released Monday, is composed of data submitted to the Uniform Crime Reporting Program by law enforcement agencies across California. Hate crimes are categorized in the report by their type of discrimination, including race, religion, sexual orientation, disability and gender identity.

Aside from California cities, the report also assessed the state’s universities and colleges, as well as other agencies such as BART.

According to the report, UC Berkeley had four reported hate crimes in 2016, up from two reported in 2015, according to Reich.

“It’s difficult to pinpoint the reason for year-to-year changes, but in our campus environment, increases may coincide with social or political events occurring at the time,” Reich stated in an email.

Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Sgt. Andrew Frankel said in an email that he does not believe the numbers are reflective of the Berkeley community’s climate, as hate crime rates are “trending up” across the entire Bay Area. Berkeley’s higher numbers could also be attributed to the community’s increased comfort in reporting these crimes, according to Frankel.

“We’ve had numbers going up and down,” Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington said of the report. “I think this is pretty high, especially considering what a small city Berkeley is. It’s not the worst year ever in Berkeley, but it’s definitely not one of the better years.”

Nine of the hate crimes reported in Berkeley were listed as racially motivated.

In the past, the majority of hate crimes reported in Berkeley have been due to racial bias, according to Worthington. There have also been a few years, he said, when religiously motivated hate crime rates increased, such as the year after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Many hate crimes that occur often go unreported, as multiple agencies, including the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, have addressed.

Police Review Commission chair George Lippman, who is also vice chair of the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission, said he believes there have been more than nine racially motivated hate crimes in Berkeley. Lippman also noted the report’s lack of a category for hate crimes against the homeless population, a problem Berkeley faces in particular.

“We marginalize the homeless,” Lippman said. “This is a large and growing issue, and we have to see that the homeless are people, just as immigrants and people of different faiths are.”

One of the first steps the city has been taking to combat hate crimes is the “Everyone is Welcome Here” posters that have been distributed around the city, Lippman said. He added that further creative measures need to be taken by community members themselves, not just by political leaders.

“It’s really important for us to send the message loud and clear that we want people to report hate speech and hate crimes,” Worthington said, mentioning a recent incident at Berkeley’s Pacific Center targeting the LGBTQ+ community. “The community rallied behind the Pacific Center to say, ‘We love you, we support you.’ ”

UC Berkeley’s Division of Equity & Inclusion has been working with UCPD to provide community resources to combat hate incidents on campus. While four incidents in one year might not seem significant, said Division of Equity & Inclusion Assistant Vice Chancellor Mia Settles-Tidwell in an email, the impact of these crimes is always severe and intolerable for the people targeted.

Mayor Jesse Arreguín’s efforts to promote immigrant rights have also provided a fresh approach to tackle hate crimes in the city by communicating to the public that everyone is welcome, Lippman said.

Arreguín called the increased rates “alarming” and speculated that the rise in hate crimes could be attributed to the 2016 presidential election.

“When a Presidential candidate openly vilifies immigrants, Muslims, Latinos, women, and the LGBT community, and empowers bigotry and hatred, it’s not surprising that people will act out in their hate,” Arreguín said in an email.

The Daily Californian has partnered with ProPublica’s Documenting Hate project to collect incidents of hate crimes in Berkeley. If you’ve been a victim of a hate crime or bias-related incident, please fill out our form here.

Contact Alicia Kim at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @aliciackim.