As a spate of attacks on people of Asian heritage keeps communities on edge across the country—even around the world—a new report indicates that anti-Asian hate crimes increased 114 percent in Los Angeles in 2020.
While an increase to 15 such crimes from seven the previous year might sound modest, both police and advocates think hate-fueled attacks are likely underreported by victims. Plus, there were nine hate “incidents” targeting Asian American Angelenos last year, which the L.A. Times describes as “bigoted encounters that don’t rise to the level of a crime.”
L.A. isn’t alone. According to a study by California State University’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism and data collected by Voice of America, there were 122 anti-Asian hate crimes reported in 16 of the country’s most populous cities last year. New York City’s 28 crimes in 2020 represented an increase of 833 percent. In California, San Jose saw a 150 percent increase and San Francisco saw a 50 percent increase.
Advocates believe anti-China rhetoric around the pandemic—especially former president Donald Trump’s insistence on calling COVID-19 “the China virus”—has fueled animosity toward Asian Americans. “I think the political leadership under Trump really put a target on the backs of people perceived to be Chinese,” Chris Kwok of the Asian American Bar Association of New York told Voice of America. “It’s Sinophobia.”
And the phenomenon has gone global. According to a think tank survey reported on by Reuters, one of five Chinese Australians report being “physically threatened or attacked in the past year because of the COVID-19 pandemic” and tensions between the countries.
The LAPD says “several” anti-Asian hate crimes have been reported so far this year. Assistant Chief Beatrice Girmala tells the L.A. Times that the department will soon host a forum to address the concerns of the Asian and Pacific Islander communities.