Orange County sees another increase in hate crimes, report says

IRVINE, Calif. (KABC) -- Hate crimes are up in Orange County, according to a report released by the O.C. Human Relations Commission on Thursday.

As the commission released its findings, the parents of a murdered O.C. teen shared memories of their son, Blaze Bernstein.

"Blaze, who saw himself as a human being with dimensions of being gay and Jewish and a writer and a poet and a chef," Bernstein's father, Gideon Bernstein said.

Prosecutors argued a former high school classmate of Bernstein's murdered the 19-year-old because he was gay.

The commission counts the 2018 homicide as one of the violent acts contributing to the rise in hate crimes.

According to the document, this increase has been ongoing for the last five years with the largest jump from 2017 to 2018 -- a 12% increase.

The numbers show last year, the main target was the Jewish community followed by the Latino and Middle Eastern communities.

On Wednesday in L.A. County, the Human Relations Commission released its own report.

According to that document, more than 500 hate crimes were reported in L.A. County last year-- the largest number since 2009.

The commission's executive director, Robin Toma, said the plan was to make a change by expanding partnerships, "to include many more faith-based organizations, community-based organizations, city agencies, who are involved in being trained and know how to reach out to the communities, and receive reports of hate and then most importantly, act on it."

Bernstein's mother said Thursday, she planned to continue honoring her son's memory by speaking out against hate.

"We can do what we do best and that is to continue to repair the world, and that's what we have been doing since before this happened and we will continue to do it," Jeanne Bernstein said.

The 2018 O.C. Hate Crimes report distinguished a crime from an incident, defining a hate incident as a behavior protected by the First Amendment.

According to the report, in 2018 there was an alarming rise in hate incidents in the O.C. -- a 37 percent jump from 2017.
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