OAKLAND - California Attorney General Rob Bonta released hate-crime statistics Wednesday showing a sharp increase in hate crimes against Asians last year.
"We're in a full-on state of crisis, state of emergency when it comes to hate crimes and hate violence," Bonta said.
He spoke out in the heart of Oakland's Chinatown, where victims of Asian descent have been attacked and robbed.
"It's important that I come here today as the California Attorney General, right here in Oakland Chinatown, my former assembly district, and say hate crimes are a priority," said Bonta, a former assemblymember who is from Alameda.
Bonta said hate crimes against Asians in California jumped 107% from 2019 to 2020.
The highest number of hate crimes happened in March and April of last year at the start of the shelter in place for the coronavirus.
He said, "2020 wasn't just about a deadly virus. It was about an epidemic of hate as well."
Bonta added, "It was also wondering whether you, or someone you love would be attacked simply because of the way you look."
In 2020, Alameda County reported 52 hate crimes of all types, of which 19 were in Oakland. Contra Costa County reported 27, Marin County 22, Napa reported zero hate crimes, San Francisco reported 54, San Mateo County logged 19, while Santa Clara County reported the most, with 120 incidents. Solano County reported 16, and Sonoma County reported 26.
Bonta urged police and prosecutors to better investigate hate crimes, saying more than 50% of hate crimes that occurred weren't initially identified or investigated as hate crimes.
Carl Chan, president of the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce said, "We realize that there are many, many recognize many victims of crime, including myself.
Chan was himself attacked back in April. Chan took pictures of the suspect, who was arrested. Chan urged victims to come forward.
"Please, don't be afraid," Chan said. "We are here together. We have to be united. We have to work together. Together, we can make changes."
Bonta is the first Filipino and second Asian American to serve as state attorney general.
Oakland City Councilmember Sheng Thao is the first Hmong American councilmember in the state.
"Representation does matter," Thao said. "Representation means that not only will the AAPI community feel safer, but it's in all communities."