SAN DIEGO — Hate crimes in San Diego are skyrocketing, up 65-percent in 2022 over the prior year. City leaders say they are focused on prosecuting these types of cases, including one, where a 43-year-old man was recently convicted for a hate crime he committed outside the Crest Café in the Hillcrest back in July 2021.
The City Attorney’s Office has prosecuted 23 hate crime cases over the past three years. "We take hate crimes very seriously because sometimes they're the first step towards an escalation," said San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott.
Elliott believes the number is actually higher, saying she suspects people aren't reporting hate crimes as much as they should.
In the Crest Café incident, Cameron James was seen lighting a fire near restaurant. An employee ran to put the fire out, at which point, it escalated.
"This person went back, over followed him to the cafe, made a ruckus, called him some derogatory terms that indicated that it was based on hate," said Elliott.
James used a slur that defames people within the LGBTQ community. He also threatened and threw a chair at the victim, leaving a visible injury on his back.
Not only that, but he also drew a swastika on the window. "When it came to the swastika, he said I am German. I am an admitted racist and I drew the swastika," said Elliott.
James pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery with a hate crime allegation and interfering with a business. The judge denied probation and sentenced him to 273 days in jail.
The victim in this case is a heterosexual Hispanic man. He told CBS8 he hadn't heard about the conviction yet, but was happy the case was finalized.
Prosecuting hate crimes has become a focus for Elliott and other city leaders, especially now as new numbers reveal there was a 65 percent increase in hates crimes citywide in 2022.
Mayor Todd Gloria addressed the rise a hate crimes forum in Washington DC last week.
CBS8 caught up with Gloria in San Diego. Like Elliott, he too hopes this latest conviction will serve as a reminder to anyone committing a hate crime in San Diego.
"We will prosecute you. We will put you in jail. It is unacceptable. There's no place for hate in our city," said Gloria.
If you've been a victim of a hate crime, the City Attorney's Office is encouraging people to report it.
If you have been assaulted, contact 911 or go to a local hospital if you need immediate medical attention.
You can also report hate crimes to the San Diego Police Department by contacting the SDPD’s 24-hour number for non-emergency calls and general information at (619) 531-2000 or call (858) 484-3154 if you live in the 858 area code.
You can also call the City Attorney’s Office at (619) 236-6220.
For more information on hate crimes, please visit Say No to Hate, on the City Attorney’s website.
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