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HATE CRIMES UP SLIGHTLY IN SANTA CLARITA VALLEY.

Byline: Lisa Van Proyen Daily News Staff Writer

Like other areas throughout the county, hate crimes increased in 1996 in the Santa Clarita Valley, enough to serve as a wake-up call, but not to the point of drawing conclusions about increased racism, officials said.

Last year, five hate crimes were reported to law enforcement officials - an increase of two from the previous year, according to the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations, which released its annual county crime report figures Thursday.

All five of the hate crimes involved racism rather than religion, disabilities or sexual orientation, said Mary Louise Longoria, a senior staff consultant on the commission.

Lt. Tim Peters of the Santa Clarita Valley sheriff's station said most of the incidents involved youths shouting racial epithets.

Canyon Country and Saugus each had two hate crimes, and one was reported in Newhall, Longoria said.

In 1995, three hate crimes were reported - one each in Canyon Country, Saugus and Newhall, the report said. Two of those crimes involved racism, one religion.

Comparatively, neighboring Antelope Valley had 40 incidents last year of hate crimes, 34 of which were race-related. This marks a dramatic increase from its eight incidents in 1995.

Overall, Los Angeles County showed a more than 25 percent increase over the previous year, with 995 hate crimes reported, the 17th annual report showed. This has prompted the commission to call for a countywide summit to reverse the trend.

Though Longoria acknowledged that Santa Clarita's figures are low, she said the increase offers warning signs.

``It signals that something could escalate,'' she said. ``It does serve as a wake-up call. There's some element of disease. Let's get it right now before it goes out of control.''

Peters attributes this area's low numbers to the high level of education in local schools and vocal residents who resist racial problems.

``I think we have a community that is concerned about this activity,'' Peters said.

He said most of the hate crimes are initiated by youths. In 1994, problems with skinheads emerged, but neighborhood pressure stymied the activity, he said.

About 1-1/2 years ago, discriminating words were written on pieces of paper and slipped into six packs of drinks at grocery stores, Peters said. And in Newhall, somebody changed an elementary school's marquee so that it spelled out racial epithets, authorities said.

But the incidents are few, Peters said.

``People don't want it out here,'' he said. ``A lot of work is done within our high schools to deal with it so that they don't fester into problems.''
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 25, 1997
Words:426
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