SF sees sharp increase on hate crimes

The number of hate crimes prosecuted in San Francisco has doubled in the last year and that's in a city known for tolerance.
December 15, 2010 11:10:58 PM PST
The number of hate crimes prosecuted in San Francisco has doubled in the last year and that's in a city known for tolerance.

The Bay Area has a lot of immigrants who may not know hate crimes can be prosecuted and beat cops may sometimes overlook evidence of a hate crime. While it's tough to get convictions, San Francisco's conviction rate for hate crimes has doubled, but it's not because hate crimes are necessarily up.

Last year, the district attorneys in three of the most populated counties in the Bay Area prosecuted about the same number of hate crime cases. But this year in San Francisco, that number doubled from 12 to 24 cases. The statistics for Alameda County remains about the same and Santa Clara County's figures for this year were not available.

"Myself as the assigned district attorney and one police officer follow a case from almost the moment it happens all the way through trial and sentencing," hate crimes prosecutor for the San Francisco District Attorney Victor Huang said.

Huang says those crimes may not be increasing, it's just that his office is pursuing them more aggressively than before.

"We are alerting police officers to trends and i think that's different from what happened before. we actually alerting officers," he said.

Nevertheless, hate crimes are still tough to prosecute.

"There aren't many crimes that require proof of intent and motive. its very difficult to get into the heads of suspects sometimes," Huang said.

Janice Tone's case is an example of how difficult it may be.

"What got me was 'get back to Chinatown where you belong,' which is completely so shocking. The vicious continuous stream of hate," she said.

The 60-year-old says she was beaten at a gas station by a woman who yelled racial slurs at her. The security camera captured the attack while her assailant, Diane McNair, hits her several times.

Tone fell down and then walked quickly past the camera. She says McNair continued beating her until two good Samaritans came to her rescue. Tone went back to her car with McNair still chasing her as she drove away. McNair was charged with felony assault but no hate crime enhancement.

The prosecutor says Tone never told police about the racial slurs, nor did she testify about it in the preliminary hearing. Tone disagrees. She says she told the responding officer about the slurs, but he kept insisting it was just road rage.

She also says a case worker later advised her not to mention it at the hearing.

"I was told to play down the racial aspect because if it ever went to trial it would quote 'pollute the pool for possible candidates for jury,'" she said.

Tone's assailant pleaded guilty last week to felony assault. The Alameda County prosecutor says he'll review what tone is saying and ask the court for a jail term that reflects the seriousness of the crime.


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