Saturday, July 20, 2024

Judy Jetson hair salon workers respond after a March incident in which a brick was thrown through a window displaying an LBGTQ+ pride flag. (Photo: Judy Jetson via Instagram)

The number of hate crimes in Cambridge shot up last year to the highest level since at least 2011, the police department reported last week. The statistics were in the department’s annual crime report for 2021, which was posted on its website June 30.

There were 35 crimes that were motivated by bias toward the victim’s race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability. Victims were pepper-sprayed, threatened with a knife, assaulted, spit on and called a racial or homophobic slur. Some incidents involved graffiti. One case, in June 2021, involved apparent Zoombombing of a meeting “hosted by the city,” during which “multiple parties acting in concert” called a participant a racial slur and took over the meeting, the report said.

Before last year, the annual number of hate crimes in Cambridge had averaged 15 and the highest number in one year had been 25, in 2016, according to the report.

Police department spokesman Jeremy Warnick said hate crimes also increased last year statewide and in other large U.S. cities. Warnick said Cambridge was one of the first cities in the country to make annual information on hate crimes available to the public – part of an effort by the Policing Institute, formerly the Police Foundation, to bring attention to the topic and reduce underreporting.

A graph from the Cambridge Police Department‘s annual crime report for 2021.

Between 2020 and 2021 the number of hate crimes targeting black people increased to 13 from 7, and against Asians to 5 from 1, according to a breakdown provided by Warnick. For the first time in 2021, there were two hate crimes in which the victims were white and two in which the targets were bisexual or transgender. Some cases involved more than one bias category, such as victims targeted for being homosexual and black.

In cases last year in which the race of the suspect was known, seven alleged perpetrators were white and four were black, according to details provided by Warnick. These incidents involved the 10 hate crimes in which the suspects were prosecuted, he said. In another 11 crimes motivated by bias, suspects were known but the victims didn’t want to prosecute, Warnick said.