Hate crimes attack the basic values of American society by targeting the right of every individual to live safely and freely. Therefore, the San Diego Sheriff's Department makes hate crime threats a priority in its investigative and crime prevention efforts.

What is a hate crime?

A hate crime is a criminal act committed against another person that is motivated by prejudice against certain characteristics of that person. The California Penal Code outlines these characteristics in section 422.55:
  • Disability;
  • Gender;
  • Nationality;
  • Race or ethnicity;
  • Religion;
  • Sexual orientation; or
  • Association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics.

The California Penal Code also states in code 422.6(a) that it is unlawful to use force or threat of force to “willfully injure, intimidate, interfere with, oppress, or threaten any other person in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him or her by the constitution or laws” of California or the United States.

Further, according to California Penal Code 422.6(b), it is a hate crime to “knowingly deface, damage, or destroy the real or personal property of any other person for the purpose of intimidating or interfering with the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to the other person” by the US Constitution or state law.

What is a hate incident?

Generally, speech is not enough to charge a hate crime. To charge a hate crime, speech must threaten violence, target a specific person or group, and the offender must have the apparent ability to carry out the threat. Speech that does not meet these criteria, however ugly, intimidating, and upsetting, still does not meet criminal behavior. Behavior that may cause an individual to feel like a victim of a hate crime can be documented as a “Hate Incident.”

What to do if you or someone you know is a victim of a hate crime:

  • In an emergency, call 911. Otherwise, call your local law enforcement agency or the San Diego Sheriff's Department Communication Center at (858) 565-5200 to make a report.
  • Obtain medical attention, if needed. Be sure to keep all medical documentation.
  • Write down the hate language.
  • Leave all evidence in place. Do not touch, remove or clean up anything.
  • Document what happened. Take photographs of the evidence, writing down exactly what was said, particularly any words that indicate bias motivation, and other information that may be valuable.
  • Get the name(s); address (es) and phone number(s) of other victims and witnesses.

The San Diego Sheriff's Department treats all reports of hate crimes seriously. The Sheriff's Department encourages that if one notices suspicious activity that doesn't warrant immediate attention or a past incident or person is still on one's mind, they can pass that information along to authorities by submitting a tip. By reporting any information one may be able to prevent incidents from happening to someone else.

Additional Resources

LECC SAR/Report Terrorism Threat or Suspicious Activity
San Diego Anti-Defamation League (ADL)
San Diego County District Attorney's Office Hate Crime Unit
Southern Poverty Law Center
State of California Department of Justice-Hate Crime Statistics
Teaching Tolerance