Ben Bergman |

Hate crimes targeting gays and lesbians have jumped in Orange County, according to a new report released Thursday. Read the full document here.

For over two decades, the non-profit group, OC Human Relations, has released its annual study of hate crimes.

According to the latest report, there were 13 hate crimes against gays and lesbians last year, compared with eight the year before.

“That’s a pretty startling increase,” said Kevin O’Grady, Executive Director of The Center OC, a gay and lesbian advocacy group. “That’s a big jump.”

He says there’s not just an increase in hate crimes against the LGBT community in Orange County, but everywhere.

“I think it’s probably tied to all of the national debate around marriage and the extension of LGBT rights,” said O’Grady. “I think it represents some kind of backlash.”

Hate crimes directed at gays and lesbians increased in Orange County for the second year in a row.

Before 2011, they had been on the decline for six years.

OC Human Relations Executive Director Rusty Kennedy says the trend is particularly worrisome because half of last year’s incidents involved violent assaults.

“The hate crimes targeting the gay community are disproportionately more violent than those targeting others,” said Kennedy.

Overall, the report showed a decrease in the number of hate crimes in Orange County, with attacks against Muslims and Arabs continuing a three-year downward trend.

Hate crimes against African-Americans were cut almost in half, from 23 in 2011 to 13 last year.

Still, Kennedy says the report should serve as a wake-up call.

“We try to open people’s eyes to the fact that some people in our community are picked on unfairly,” said Kennedy. “We should be ashamed of that and make sure that changes in the future.”

Kennedy says many hate crimes go unreported until it’s too late.

He said a woman called last fall to report the constant harassment her African-American family had faced in Yorba Linda. The family said its tires were slashed, rocks were thrown through their windows, and racial epithets shouted at them.

About 10 days after reporting the incidents, the family moved out of Orange County.

The original article was published by 89.3 KPCC