BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — California Attorney General Rob Bonta alongside Bakersfield Mayor Karen Goh and other local leaders discussed the rising levels of hate crimes in California at a roundtable.

The roundtable in Bakersfield was one of Bonta’s 13 stops in his statewide effort to address hate and bias and increase awareness.

“Hate lives and looks like a lot of things in the community and hate crimes is a very specific definition of an expression of hate, it’s a crime plus the hate,” Bonta said.

According to Attorney General Rob Bonta California is seeing the highest reported level of hate crimes in more than a decade. With a 31% overall increase in reported hate crimes and crimes motivated by racial bias increasing by 67.3%.

However, according to Mayor Karen Goh, there were only nine reported hate crimes in Bakersfield in 2021, the last year for which there are statistics.

“We’re fortunate in Bakersfield that we have not seen those staggering numbers that other areas of our state have experienced, but even so nine reported hate crime offenses in Bakersfield are nine too many,” Goh said.

Despite Bakersfield’s smaller reported hate crime numbers, Bonta suggested more hate crimes could exist but they are unreported. Local leader Traco Matthews said he sees hate crimes go unreported often.

“As a black man here in Bakersfield, in Kern County, I’m notified often about hate incidents that may not be tantamount to a crime, yet, but folks are afraid and there’s just no action because it’s just not yet a crime,” Matthews said.

However, a big problem with hate crimes, is many are under prosecuted because they are harder to prove. Bonta says he is working to tackle this problem by proving police statewide with guidance on how to build hate crime cases.

“Crimes are hard to prove, they require an action, and they require an expression of a mental intent […] we need to arrest people when they commit crimes, we need to arrest people when they commit hate crimes and prosecute them as such using the best practices and tools to build the case,” Bonta said.

For resources or tips on how to report a hate crime, go here or call the statewide hate crime hotline at 833-8-NO-HATE.