Reported hate crimes in California’s Riverside and San Bernardino counties have risen sharply in recent years, fueled partly by demographic changes that experts say are bringing more minorities into a region that has long been home to pockets of white supremacists, reports the Los Angeles Times. Although hate crimes declined 10 percent statewide in 2003, they rose a combined 19.5 percent in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, says the state attorney general’s office. As part of crackdowns by the FBI and sheriffs, 42 people associated with white hate groups have been arrested in the last 13 months on suspicion of weapons possession, drug dealing and other crimes.
In the last two years, incidents in Riverside county have included teens parading with a homemade flag emblazoned with swastikas in front of one high school, and the beating of two black students by four white students at another high school. Experts and law enforcement officials say rising racial hostility has been triggered by increasing racial diversity among newcomers. As the county’s white population rose 7 percent from 1990 to 2000, the number of blacks grew 61 percent and nd Latinos and Asians increased 82 percent and 62 percent respectively. “Any kind of major demographic change has the potential to spark racial turbulence and hate crimes,” said Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Birmingham, Al. “Very often, hate crimes are someone acting out in response to some kind of real pressure, including sprawl and economic pressures.”