Due to a rise in hate crimes across the country, particularly in Orange County, the office of Orange County District Attorney (OCDA) Todd Spitzer announced the creation of a special unit that aims to prosecute such crimes.
The Hate Crimes Unit will be supervised by the DA’s office of Special Prosecutions and staffed by three prosecutors and two investigators.
“The Hate Crimes Unit will be dedicated to prosecuting crimes in which the perpetrators acted based on a bias against the victim’s race, color, religion, national origin, actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, disability or gender,” according to a press release from the OCDA’s office.
Spitzer said that prosecuting hate crimes is at the forefront of his administration and emphasized the county’s diversity.
“We cannot change who we are and no one should be targeted and victimized because of who they are, how they look, or who they love. The beauty of Orange County is found in its diversity. Hate will not be tolerated here,” Spitzer said in the press release.
In addition, Spitzer said that his office will improve its efforts in combating hate crimes in the OC through community education and officer training.
“By working to educate our communities, better training our law enforcement officers, and sending a strong message to haters that hate-motivated crimes will not be tolerated, we are preventing hate crimes from ever occurring and when they do occur we are standing up for victims and holding haters accountable,” Spitzer said.
The unit was created in response to a recent increase in Anti-Asian violence that began during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic which has steadily continued. Data cited by the DA’s office from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino reported a 150% increase in Anti-Asian hate crimes in 2020.
The press release also details how community members are often hesitant about reaching out to authorities after a hate crime, and that the unit plans to address these concerns with community outreach.
“Many victims of hate crimes are reluctant to report due to mistrust of law enforcement and language and cultural barriers,” the DA’s office said. “Community outreach and education is a critical component to ensuring those who commit hate-motivated crimes are held accountable as well as sending a strong message that hate crimes will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Autumn Martin is a City News Intern for the spring 2021 quarter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.