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Anti-Semitic, anti-Armenian hate crimes increase

Other hate crimes have lessened since last year in L.A. County, according to a recent report.

December 22, 2010|By Melanie Hicken, melanie.hicken@latimes.com

At the same time reported hate crimes across Los Angeles County dropped significantly compared to the previous year, anti-Semitic crimes increased by nearly 50% and those against Armenians doubled, according to a report released Tuesday.

The Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations on Tuesday announced that 580 hate crimes were reported to county law enforcement agencies in 2009 — a 21% drop compared to 2008.

The reported crimes include violent acts, including intimidation and assault, and nonviolent acts like vandalism.

"That's our second lowest total in a decade," said Robin Toma, executive director of the commission. "We believe all of this is cause for celebration."

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In the San Fernando Valley region that includes Glendale and Burbank, 148 hate crimes were reported.

Glendale-specific data was not immediately available from county or police officials.

County officials noted an increase in religiously motivated crimes, including a "staggering" spike in anti-Semitic crimes, which they attributed to a rise in anti-Semitic graffiti, some of which appeared to be the work of serial offenders.

Reported crimes against Armenians also increased, from 8 in 2008 to 16 in 2009, according to the report.

Glendale Rabbi Rick Schechter said he was disappointed to hear of the increase in anti-Semitism across the county.

"Any time people are targeted for violence or vandalism, it's very distressing. It's very disconcerting," said Schecter, of Temple Sinai of Glendale. "And one wonders, 'What can you do to prevent it?'"

Still, he said Glendale — once a stronghold for white supremacy groups like the Ku Klux Klan — has become a more diverse and accepting community.

"As a Jewish leader in Glendale, I am so grateful for the support and the acceptance of different cultures," he said.

Leonard Manoukian, co-chairman of the board of directors for the Armenian National Committee of America Glendale Chapter, agreed and said that ignorance often breeds violent acts.

"I think hate crimes are primarily the result of community's not knowing each other, being ignorant of each other's true natures and characteristics," he said.

Across the board, an overwhelming majority of the county crimes were committed by men under the age of 25, prompting officials to push youth education programs as the most effective way to target the sources of hate.

"We need to teach our kids it's not hip to hate," said Amanda Susskind, regional director of the pacific southwest region of the Anti-Defamation League. "We can stop this. It is a matter of education."

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