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The Rise Of Hate Crimes In America

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On this installment of Roundtable, the fatal shooting at a Poway synagogue turns national attention toward hate crimes. Are U.S. guns responsible for an uptick of homicides in Mexico? Plus, short-term rentals are up for debate in the state assembly.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:01 The fatal shooting at a place of a worship in Poway brings attention to an alarming increase in hate crimes here and across the nation. Mexico deals with a soaring homicide rate and experts say American made guns are the root of the epidemic and new restrictions on short term rentals along our coastline or debated in the state assembly, what the bill proposes for air BNB type transactions. Hi, Mark Sauer. The KPBS roundtable starts now.

Speaker 2: 00:37 Okay,

Speaker 1: 00:39 welcome to our discussion of the week stop stories. I'm mark Sauer and joining me at the KPBS roundtable today, reporter Priya Sri, there of KPBS news. Gene Guerrero, who covers the border and immigration for Kpbs Dana little field public safety editor at the San Diego Union Tribune and Laurier Weisberg, who covers tourism and marketing for the Union Tribune. Well, the letter appears to have been posted online by the young man accused of the deadly shooting at Habod of Poway synagogue. Jewish people in the writer's view are guilty of false ranging from killing Jesus to controlling the media and deserve to die to kill. Jews would glorify God. According to the letter, the alleged author, a 19 year old is in jail without bond after being charged with one count of murder and with a hate crime, special circumstance, and three counts of attempted murder. And one count of arson, that last charge involved in arson attack last month at Escondido, at a mosque, these attacks put the spotlight once again on hate crimes in our society. Here's what San Diego district attorney's summer, Stephan said regarding the spike in violence spawned by hate.

Speaker 3: 01:47 Sadly, we are seeing a rise in hate crimes and nationally and also in San Diego County. Uh, over the last year and a half we've seen an increase of about 40% in hate crimes. Uh, we, our office has seen a doubling of the reports that have come in for hate crimes

Speaker 1: 02:11 and Priya, let's start with the shooting tragedy. It's itself. Tell us what you saw and heard covering that at the synagogue. Yeah,

Speaker 4: 02:17 so I was able to make it to the scene. I'm just about an hour and a half after the shooting took place. And as you can imagine, people in that community were shocked. Um, the synagogue is actually directly across the street from a very residential area. And I think people were even more shocked as more details started to emerge in the authorities were briefing us throughout the day. The fact that the shooter was 19 years old, he was a white male with no criminal record. I think, uh, that really shocked a lot of people. And then we started hearing about this open letter. And so it really kind of gave us an indication about what his potential motivations could be. And then, you know, you hear from summer stuff and our district attorney right there that hate crimes are doubling in this area. So I think it's forcing to really take a look at what's actually happening in our community.

Speaker 1: 03:02 Right. And that's what we want to get into. And Dana, tell us about that. What are the say the FBI statistics show? It's been a trend here in recent years, right?

Speaker 3: 03:08 Yes, yes. So nationally, the most recent numbers that we have come from 2017 so there were 1500 hate crimes reported across the country in, in that year. Um, and that is a mark increase from 2012, uh, which, uh, that's about a 40% increase. And I believe that's what the district attorney was referring to. And so of those 1500 hate crimes, about two thirds of those were, were, seemed to be motivated by some kind of antisemetic feeling motivation.

Speaker 1: 03:44 And that was of course what we saw here apparently in this, uh, in this crime. And, and obviously we should say that, uh, there's just been an arrest and a charge and arraignment here of a, the alleged suspect or let's suspect the shooter is lead shooter in this case. And that case has a long way to go through the judicial process. Uh, and Priya, uh, police and sheriff departments, do they have the resources to scour chat rooms, very social media accounts to find letters like this and, and the indications that somebody may be planning to do something.

Speaker 4: 04:12 Yeah, that's a great question. And I actually got a chance to talk to a former FBI special agent about that. And you know, it's interesting because Poway falls under the jurisdiction of the San Diego Sheriff's department. So oftentimes in these bigger police departments or law enforcement agencies like San Diego Police Department, they actually do have a criminal intelligence unit that does in fact monitor those extremists chat rooms. Now, they wouldn't give us the list of exactly which chat rooms they look into for obvious reasons. But, uh, the FBI agent I spoke to said that, you know, this is a cooperation between federal, state and local authorities. But the challenge with the Internet is that oftentimes these people use coded language and trying to identify exactly who is the person that's talking on the Internet and when and where there might be a potential attack is one of the reasons that it's difficult to sort of pin down these people and stop these attacks before they happen.

Speaker 3: 05:04 Laurie and I know there's probably various reasons that are contributing to this rise in hate crimes and it's a complex subject. But you know, in casual conversation you'll hear say, oh, well, you know, I bet it's, it's president Trump, you know, his talk about nationalistic fervor, unwilling to sometimes to condemn hate groups. Aside from from killings and shootings, what do you, what are you all hearing about what is contributing to this rise? I mean, the Internet's been around for a while, so I'm just wondering if there's any thoughts on what may be,

Speaker 4: 05:35 I mean, I've certainly heard that just from listening to, you know, um, various religious leaders, um, on TV over the past week that, you know, it's perhaps because of the Trump rhetoric it's becoming a more acceptable to have those kinds of conversations out loud. But I do think that I'm, the rise in these extremists chat rooms is also making a little bit easier. You know, we heard from authorities right after the attack that the suspect was considered a lone wolf and he wasn't necessarily tied to any sort of a hate group or organization. However, I think these chat rooms are giving people a platform to connect with like minded people who have the same kind of ideology that they do and perhaps share information and give each other ideas on how to execute an attack like we saw happen this past weekend.

Speaker 3: 06:23 Dana. Yeah, it's in what you're saying clearly it's certainly true. Um, and there is this feeling that, um, perhaps, uh, Trump's seeming unwillingness to condemn right away. I'm certain other incidents though he did come out right away and say something against this particular shooting, but people have attributed that to perhaps an emboldening of some people. However we should say, I know some of the reporters who are working on, on these stories have found that a lot of these people in some of these chat rooms have said that they do that they are not Trump supporters. Um, I believe there was some reference to this particular suspect. I'm not having any sort of, um, you know, affinity or not supporting Trump himself. So it can come from a lot of different, different sources. Open letters. Okay. You didn't mention president Trump at all. Right. That's my honors.

Speaker 4: 07:24 I think he actually explicitly said that this had nothing, that he is not a supporter of president Trump but also the law enforcement officials that I did speak to said that oftentimes they'll throw these sort of red herrings out there just to try to um, you know, distanced themselves from a particular political ideology or an extremist group. So it's hard to know, you know, what his actual thoughts were and I should mention that authorities are still looking into the legitimacy of that open letter, but it's something that they mentioned in the arraignment as well.

Speaker 1: 07:52 Well that's, I'm glad you brought that up Lori, because that's one of the things I did want to touch on here. The elected leaders failing or even poisoning at times our culture and the norms through heated political rhetoric. I mean the, the anger, the tribal isn't just in our, our politics and then you mix into that, the religion and international politics and the kind of the social media steroids aspect in terms of, of just overheating everything and it really gets to be a problem. It didn't want to throw it out to the panel about the challenges for reporters and media. You get, we get the call on on, on the last weekend in, in this case here. And of course it's on the heels of these other tragedies around the world, uh, that this is a suddenly an international story. And we're going to rush to the scene and we're going to talk to as many people as we can. We're going to look at the background of the suspect without, you know, glorifying the suspect and you get to walk that fine line. And then we find out where these two and three day later leads as we call them in the business. What does it all mean and what positions the media really to weigh in on this than the stoke that debate? Laura?

Speaker 3: 08:57 Uh, I think, you know, right away there's, there's, um, a keen interest in finding out who was in this case and in all other cases, who was the shooter? What, what motivates him, who was he? And so we did that first story. We did get an email from a very well written email from um, reader who said, you know, that's fine to look into the background, but should you really be, um, posting in its entirety, his, his, what he's saying and, and it is, you can see, you can see both ways. So the, the issue and that why you want to know as much as you can about this person at the same time trying not to in any way glorify them.

Speaker 1: 09:34 All right. I did want to get a word here. We have a, a, a bite from a rabbi Israel Goldstein of Hubba. Podway a power, I'm sorry. He addressed this on the national per prayer breakfast. President Trump had invited them to the White House and let's hear what he had to say about it.

Speaker 2: 09:49 Okay.

Speaker 5: 09:50 Just five days ago, Saturday morning, I faced evil and the worst darkness of all time, right. In our own house of worship, right? Yeah. About a Poway. I faced him and I had to make a decision. Do I run and hide? What do I stand tall and fight and protect all of those that are there. We cannot control what others do, but we can't control how we react.

Speaker 1: 10:29 All right. And I wonder that to get another, a voice in here on that reaction there. The letter is soda associated with this, uh, shooting suspect, a cited biblical teachings from his conservative Orthodox Presbyterian church and that caused some serious soul shirt searching among Christian pastors. That was according to a major story in the Washington Post this week. I interviewed the author of that story reporter or Judy as Osmolar who covers religion for the posts. Let's hear a bit of what she had to save from her reporting.

Speaker 3: 10:58 He wrote about a lot of different beliefs, most of which are coming from white supremacist and antisemitic chat rooms and various online forums. But some of it is coming from Christian theology. Uh, some of what he talks about his, about his own salvation and how he's saved because he's been selected by God, not because of his actions and about, uh, the martyrdom of various Christian figures throughout history, including talking about how the Jews killed Jesus as he puts it. He quotes from the New Testament. It's not just online hate rooms.

Speaker 2: 11:36 Yeah.

Speaker 1: 11:36 So quite a mix there. And just a couple seconds left here again, I want to get back to the media's responsibility. How much do you go with this? Not many people that, that letter was taken down quickly. Not many people, uh, that I can see published that in its entirety made some references to it, right Dana?

Speaker 3: 11:51 Right. I mean, we, we did, uh, try to give our readers our audience some idea of what the purported thinking was behind that, this conduct. Um, so you have to give some of it. Um, but we're not, you know, publishing every single word that he said. And as we go forward, we have to, um, we have to stare this issue in its face. We have to look at what's going on here. We have to ask the questions. Is All of us are, you know, who else might be, um, motivated by the same influences and might be planning something. And where is this coming from? We're asking all of those questions. But as we do that, the questions we have to ask ourselves is, you know, how far is too far, how much is too much? And, and you know, sometimes those lines shift day by day. Uh, our goal is to inform the public of course, but we do not want to give legitimacy where there shouldn't be and we do not want to amplify, um, sentiments that perhaps we should not. So these are questions that we're asking.

Speaker 1: 12:55 Okay. We'll leave it there. Obviously not going to resolve all this segment here today, but as Lori said, I think we need to listen to her, our audience or our readers or our listeners. And when they respond and they, uh, they get involved in these discussions too. Well, we are going to move on. We're going to move on to a story about extreme violence of a different sort. Mexico in Tijuana in particular experience a shocking level of bloodshed. More than 33,000 people were murdered in Mexico last year. More than 2,500 and Tijuana president Trump repeats groundless claims about criminals overrunning our southern border. But the vast number of American guns and bullets flowing south is all too real. And Jeanne, you had a two part series on that, uh, this week about American gun running to Mexico showed how easy it is for American guns and Ammo to wind up in Mexico, which is a country with pretty strict laws regarding possession and sale of weapons. Why is this happening?

Speaker 6: 13:49 So, I mean it's just when you, when you look at the ports of entry, everybody is familiar with the long lines that you see to get into the United States. But when it comes to going to Mexico, you could drive across that border without ever being stock stopped by Mexican customs. They barely pause as you're doing most of the, I mean, I, I go to Mexico all the time and I've only been stopped maybe four or five times that I can remember. Um, so I mean if you want to take guns into Mexico, it is illegal, but it is very possible and very easy to do.

Speaker 1: 14:18 And do they have a sense of how many weapons are flowing and what kinds of guns are flowing into Mexico? What are we talking?

Speaker 6: 14:23 Yeah, so we're talking about hundreds of thousands of weapons according to a study by the University of San Diego. Um, and there's been an increase in higher caliber weapons. So Ar Fifteens AK 47, there's also handhelds like glocks. Um, and there's been a significant increase. So just last year there was a 92% increase in the amount of guns seized by Mexican customs going and from the United States.

Speaker 1: 14:49 U agents do find it hard track guns smuggled into Mexico, right?

Speaker 6: 14:53 Yeah. So the reason it's difficult is the u s doesn't keep a federal registry of who has guns in the United States. It's not, it's not allowed to do that. And you also have different laws in the states state to state, and about half of the states in the United States, you can sell a gun to another person without that ever being recorded or um, having any kind of background check. So these guns end up in Mexico and the government can't track them unless the Mexican government seizes it in a crime scene, submits it to the ATF for tracing. But then it has to, you know, use the manufacturing number to trace it in individually. So it's a very difficult process. And, and the reason that it is so difficult to track these guns is because gun advocacy groups have fought to make sure that there is no federal registry of these weapons because they believe that, um, it could eventually lead to some kind of national confiscation of their weapons and they believe that the second amendment protects them from, from having that in place.

Speaker 1: 15:55 Is the Trump administration looking at gun smuggling and this violence south and the American guns that are winding up there? No. So I mean, president is Nafta, the Redo Nafta and call it something new when these negotiations. Yeah.

Speaker 6: 16:08 Right. I mean, so there has been there, they've been talking about increasing technologies, surveillance technologies at the fourth. And that's something that the Mexican Customs Agency told me that they planned to really ramp up is, um, surveillance technologies at the ports to try to detect more and more of these weapons coming through. But as far as president Trump making this a priority, um, that's, that's definitely not happening at the NRA. A couple, a few days ago, he announced that the US was actually, um, pulling out of a national, an international arms trade treaty that is supposed to regulate the cross border smuggling of weapons.

Speaker 1: 16:43 So maybe right at the wrong time when we look at these, uh, how's hosted sticks down in Mexico now? You've interviewed a, a self described border of vigilante from east county. What's his view on all this?

Speaker 6: 16:54 So he actually, he believes that if Mexico has gun laws where as um, sort of loose as ours, that in fact, uh, Mexico would see less crime, that the, that the second amendment is in place to protect, uh, this kind of thing from happening. So he says that if there, if more people had access to weapons in Mexico, then they would be able to protect themselves from the criminal groups and the corrupt politicians who sort of keep them subjugated by being the only ones who have access to these weapons. Because again, Mexico, it's very, very hard to get a gun in Mexico. There's only one gun store in the entire country. It's in Mexico City. It's controlled by the military. To get a gun, you need to travel to Mexico City. You have a six month background check. So you have to have enough money to travel to Mexico City multiple times. Um, and there's a restriction on the type of caliber, like there's a limit on the caliber of the, of the, so it's very strict, but you still see criminal organizations. Um, mark had going on, right? There's a massive black market and, and I'm, a majority of these guns are coming from the United States.

Speaker 1: 18:00 Then before we leave this topic, I did want you to give us the, the viewpoint of one of the, uh, the bloodshed victims here and what did she have to say?

Speaker 6: 18:08 Yeah, so I spoke to a woman who let that Sanchez who her son was actually killed in Tijuana, um, fatally shot after she sent him there because he was struggling with drug addiction and she couldn't afford the treatment in the United States because it's so expensive here too to cheat addictions. And so she sent him to Rehab in Tijuana that was much more affordable and right before they were going to check him in and he was shot. And she believes that if the u s had more control over the weapons that are flowing into Mexico, that that this would not have happened.

Speaker 1: 18:45 I want to be alive. Well, we'll look forward more reporting on that. It's a credible situation there. We're going to move onto a new topic for years and hearings of Hay and haggling over short term vacation rentals in San Diego resulted in an ordinance that turned out to be a bust. Now state legislators are taking a crack at an issue for, for which vexing seems to be an inadequate word that fair enough to say, Laurie, let's start there. What is this bill regularly short term rentals. This, and again, this is your, these airbnb type rentals folks are renting out homes and parts of their homes,

Speaker 3: 19:21 right? So this is, um, this is coming from a legislator and [inaudible] Tasha burner Harbach and she has put this bill that she says, Hey, I'm not targeting the host, I'm targeting the short term rental platforms but it, but it is targeting the host as well. It would limit the short term when you're, when the homeowner is, is a way that primary resident is a way you, a short term rental platform couldn't post a rental for any longer than 30 days. I have a whole year. And primarily that's Airbnb, Brbo and homeaway. There are a lot of other platforms out there, but those are the three titans. Yeah. So, um, and then if you're, you're present and your want to rent out a room or a granny flat on your property, that's okay. But it would for all intents and purposes, outlaw though short term rental of second homes and investment properties. And that's um, that's the kind of regulation that varies widely throughout the county. You've got Coronado that doesn't allow them, you've got Carlsbad that allows them on, you know in the beach areas you've got Solana beach with strict day limits in terms of no, no shorter than seven days and in San Diego you've got no regulations. So here she's trying to come in and and what some of those called a one size fits all for the whole county. Although as a jurisdiction you could legislate something tougher than what she's proposing

Speaker 1: 20:42 in this bill is kind of a pilot program aimed at San Diego County. Right,

Speaker 3: 20:46 right. So she, in the very

Speaker 1: 20:47 beginning, she was going to do this statewide for all of California. I don't think that we'll have low. So she, she modified it to just have San Diego County and you're right, it's supposed to be a five year pilot program. Her whole idea is that this is diminishing the supply of housing. They short term rentals and so she wants to see at the end of five years if this were to pass, if you went in and looked our, is the supply of longterm housing less is it stayed the same. Of course, if you did that study, I, I'd have to believe that. I don't know how you could isolate it, that whatever happens, if you could say, oh, that's because of this legislation. Um, so difficult to suss that out. Now the proponents think this is a good idea and this will work. And why is that?

Speaker 3: 21:29 Um, so among the proponents are not surprising. The hotel industry, the California Lodging Industry Association, direct competitor, right. And labor unions. Um, I don't, the city council people in San Diego haven't taken a position, although Kelson woman, Barbri, whose district includes La Jolla likes the bill. She wants to see how it, how it turns out. And then those opposing, and of course are the short term rental platforms, the, the, um, the in small and the host that just do this in general. And we don't, we haven't had the beach communities way in per se yet. They're, they're also kind of staying put for now to see what happens.

Speaker 1: 22:09 That's interesting cause they're so directly affected, right? Yeah.

Speaker 3: 22:11 Oh yeah, yeah. Mission beach for example, will they, and then you have the Pacific beach people who have said, ah, the city attorney, the city attorney has had an opinion that says the municipal ordinance doesn't specify, um, short term rentals in the municipal code, therefore they're all illegal. But that hasn't been enforced. But groups like Pacific beach say just enforce that. So that's what happened.

Speaker 1: 22:34 Yeah, no, obviously you're just going to have more debate on this and, and it's, it's a bill that's moving through just out of committee. So it's early times. Now how about the rental platforms and the cells of they'd been, or did they say, or have they been doing a good job of policing themselves?

Speaker 3: 22:49 Well, they argue that they, if they have hay, they, they're the ones that collect the tourism occupancy tax on behalf of the host. So they're collecting those millions of dollars flowing into the cities. Um, they don't, they, they claim that they don't list properties that violate local regulations, that they're the good actors. And then when you, when you haven't ordinance or regulation like this, um, you allow the bad actors to start coming in and take their place. So because I'm, you don't, it wouldn't bar like a Craig's list or rental management companies websites from, um, having that 30 day limit. It's limited to short term rental platforms so you could conceivably, um, platform, Haha 30 days on that one in 30 days on another. Um, so there I, it'll be interesting to see if the bill gets amended further.

Speaker 1: 23:36 Those are the loopholes there. I should back up a little and say, give us a sense of how many of these there are here now. It's, it's grown lately in terms of these types of, um, well

Speaker 3: 23:45 I looked, there's a firm called air DNA that tracks this and I looked at just airbnb and homeaway rentals, um, in the coastal cities in San Diego County that this would effect. There's about 14,000. Um, but just to give you an idea, over the last four years, the number of short term rental listings just on airbnb have tripled. So you can see the influence of the ease of the online platform. I mean, obviously places like mission beach have had short term vacation rentals forever, but it's grown with the popularity of things like airbnb

Speaker 1: 24:16 and it's, I mean there's such pressure on, on tourism is expensive to come here. It's expensive to bring our family here. So these have become really popular.

Speaker 3: 24:23 Yeah. And you heard some of the state legislatures, why I can't bring my family there unless I stay in an airbnb. The hotels are too expensive.

Speaker 1: 24:30 I want to go to seaworld. You gotta have the Airbnb. Um, and so you mentioned the, uh, elected officials are kind of laying low so far as far as all of this goes. And are they still getting complaints though in the city council offices and, uh, from, from residents of these and saying, Hey, you've got to do something here that somebody's got to do. So,

Speaker 3: 24:47 yeah, I think so. I think so. And it's something we need to track more closely. But when you, when I've covered a number of these hearings and they all come armed with slides and photos of the parties and the, and the, and the debris that's left after vacationers leave. So I don't think that has diminished. But the city, at least in the city of San Diego, they don't have the financial resources to have code enforcement 24, seven.

Speaker 1: 25:09 Okay. Just a couple seconds left. The timetable on this, it's got a ways to go through the legislature.

Speaker 3: 25:14 It has to be heard by the assembly by the end of May and then it moves on to the state senate and its committees and it has to be kind of wrap up discussion at least for this legislative year by um, um, September.

Speaker 1: 25:26 All right. A lot of reporting to follow up on. We'll keep an eye on that one. Well that does wrap up another week of stories at the KPBS round table. I'd like to thank my guest Prius Sri there and Jean Guerrero of KPBS news and Dana Littlefield and Lori Weisberg of the San Diego Union Tribune. It makes it easy when you're paired up like this. And a reminder, all the stories we discussed today are available on our website. KPBS dot o r. G I'm Mark Sauer. Thanks for joining us today and join us again next week on the round table.

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Mark Sauer hosts KPBS Roundtable, a lively discussion of the week's top stories. Local journalists join Sauer to provide insight into how these stories affect residents of the San Diego region.