Am with you, must unitedly take on hate, AG Rob Bonta tells Asian Americans

Ritu Jha-


California’s Attorney General Rob Bonta, in an exclusive interview with indica, spoke about the rise in hate crimes, growing general crime and looting in some cities of the Golden State, and the work being done with district attorneys and law enforcement to tackle these problems.

Bonta, who was chief guest and keynote speaker at the 21st Unity Dinner in Fremont, said those who started the event after 9/11 had a vision that was necessary at the time, but the need for it still exists.

Horrific racial attacks that took place in the wake of 9/11 continue even today, he noted. Hate has been around a long time and can only be countered by unifying, collaborating and working together.

“We need each other, especially at a time when we are under assault because of who we are, how we look, and where we come from,” Bonta said. “So, when we come together, there is nothing that we can’t accomplish.”

Bonta acknowledged the rising hate-crime graph in the state. “Yes, data show hate crime is going up [a special report on says there was an alarming 107% rise in anti-Asian hate crimes in 2020] and so we have created a Racial Justice Bureau within the California Department of Justice to call out racial injustice, to call out hate, and make sure we have resources and people to fight for our communities when they are under attack,” he said.

“Hate crime or hate incident is not just an attack on an individual because of who they are, their ethnicity, but it’s an attack on the whole community,” the attorney general continued. “So, I have been encouraging district attorneys’ offices to set up hate-crime units and we have been working with and helping law enforcement to better investigate hate crime.”

He admitted that many times hate crimes are not identified correctly and investigated but are swept under the rug, making it more painful for the community. “We have created a group called Community Awareness, Response and Engagement (CARE), which works with the community to provide healing to the victims,” Bonta said.

“We are supporting law enforcement to identify hate crime,” the attorney general continued. “We have to provide training, resources, guidance on how to better identify hate crimes. You have to build the case, identify the motive, the incident, review documents, social media and past statements, what was said during the attack, and that could solidify the crime as a hate crime.”

In his message to Asian Americans, Attorney General Bonta said, “I stand with you. Your fights are my fights. And as you stand against the forces of hate and suffering from hate crimes, your AG will have your back.”

On the other growing concern, rise in general crime and looting, Bonta said, “It is important we keep people safe and it is important how we do it through community policing.  All these take resources and investment to do right and so we need to support law enforcement to do their jobs and keep us safe.”

Asked about the state’s move to release people involved in petty and nonlethal crimes, who then go out into the community and return to the same activities, eventually getting arrested again, Bonta said the administration is working to curb retail theft and the best way to do that is to arrest people and hold them accountable. “We can do better in that regard,” he agreed. “People, if they hurt someone, they need to be held accountable and arrested.”

Bonta said the focus has to be on prevention of crime rather than mere punishment, and it is important to make sure that when these prisoners finish their sentences and go out into the community, they don’t return to a life of crime but have a productive life and contribute to society.

The state has a Male Community Reentry Program (MCRP) that invests in people in the last six months of their sentence and helps them to re-enter the community as productive members. “Best is the crime that never occurred and the one you prevent, second best is the one that happens only once,” he remarked.