SALINAS, Calif. - California's attorney general says reported hate crimes jumped more than 17 percent in the state last year, though they remain relatively rare.
The Department of Justice released its annual hate crimes report Monday, the first since President Donald Trump took office in January 2017.
The DOJ defined hate crimes as those targeting victims because of their race or ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or a disability. Nearly 1,100 were reported in 2017 compared to 900 in 2016.
In Monterey County, hate crimes rose from three events in 2016 to eight events in 2017. Santa Cruz County saw a small decline from 15 reported events in 2016 to 12 reported incidents in 2017.
The report also found anti-Latino or anti-Hispanic bias events rose nearly 52-percent. Community advocacy group Building Healthy Communities said it was not surprised by the numbers, given the current political climate.
"This is probably due to the fact that President Trump has been very vocal about his anti-immigrant policies and this idea that many Americans have that all Latinos are immigrants," said Jesus Valenzuela, communications manager.
The Monterey County Sheriff's Office said proving a crime was motivated by race, religion, sexual orientation or gender can be difficult.
"Proving that it was that far, proving that it was the intent behind the crime, cause they're trying to terrorize them because of that reason is the biggest issue," said Cmdr. John Thornburg. "It's easy to show somebody hit somebody, it's a whole other reason to show that they hit them because they thought they were one of these groups protected under a hate crime statute."
Hate crimes based on religious grounds also saw a sharp increase. Anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish hate crimes jumped from 171 incidents in 2016 to 207 last year.
The report was one of five crime reports the DOJ released Monday.
The DOJ also reported that police killed 172 civilians last year compared to 157 in 2016. Another report showed California's violent crime rate increased 1.5 percent last year compared to 2016 while property crime dropped 2 percent.