Yucelen, a civil engineer who has lived in the U.S. for 28 years, said that on July 4, when he asked two white men living next door to move a truck blocking his driveway, they began hurling ethnic slurs and threatened several of his party guests.“They said, ‘Go back to your own country,’” Yucelen, 46, recalled, adding one of the men spat on him. “I came to America when I was 18. I worked hard, went to college and love this country. I live in a very friendly neighborhood. I don’t understand their need to do this.”
Such face-to-face acts of intimidation rose last year, according to a report being released today by the OC Human Relations Commission.
The report found that the overall number of hate crimes fell in 2013 to the lowest number in a decade, but that was largely because of a drop in vandalism crimes. Hate crimes against individuals rose from 24 in 2012 to 28 in 2013, the report found.
OC Human Relations, a county commission formed to fight prejudice and discrimination, has been tracking the number of hate crimes in Orange County with an annual report for more than 20 years. Its chief executive, Rusty Kennedy, said he is pleased the latest report shows the overall numbers are down, but alarmed that crimes targeting individuals are up.
“Violent hate crimes are the most damaging, intimating and troubling because it’s up close and personal and that makes it more significant,” he said. “It has a more terrorizing impact.”
State law defines a hate crime as one committed based on the victim’s disability, gender, nationality, race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation.
The commission reported 49 hate crimes in Orange County in 2013, down from 61 in 2012. Vandalism and destruction of property drove the decrease but remain the most common type of crime reported.
More than 20 percent of the reported hate crimes – 11 of the 49 – targeted African-Americans, who make up just 2 percent of the county’s population, according to the report. African-Americans have been the most frequent targets of hate crimes for 22 years straight.
Crimes targeting Muslims and Arabs rose from four in 2012 to six in 2013, reversing a three-year downward trend, according to the report. At the same time, crimes targeting Jews fell from 11 in 2012 to five in 2013, and crimes targeting Latinos dropped from six to three. There was one reported hate crime against an Asian or Pacific Islander.
The number of crimes against people perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender also fell in 2013, from 13 to seven, after a steady rise since 2010.
But Kennedy said the report might not tell the whole story of hate crimes in Orange County because some victims never file complaints.
“Sexual-orientation victims may not be out at home or work, and recent immigrants are sometimes reluctant to trust police or authorities,” he said.
Yucelen said the encounter with his Huntington Beach neighbors this year has left him so shaken that he has been staying at another house in Rancho Cucamonga. OC Relations documented the incident and notified Huntington Beach police, Kennedy said.
“I’m kind of scared,” Yucelen said. “I plan to get a restraining order and move on with my life.”
Contact the writer: 714-796-7767 or [email protected] Twitter: @thechalkoutline
Click here to read the 2013 Hate Crime Report.