- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 27, 2005

MURRIETA, Calif. (AP) — Like thousands of other Californians, Crystal Farr moved her family to the inland suburbs of Los Angeles to live in more affordable housing than she could find along the coast.

She has come to question the wisdom of the move after the arrest of dozens of purported white supremacists and a series of racially charged incidents, including an attack on her teenage son.

Miss Farr, who is black, said the arrests added to her feeling that not everyone is welcome in a rapidly diversifying region where whites are no longer a majority.

“I like the community … but all this has made me have second thoughts,” she said. “It’s taken its toll on our family.”

While Miss Farr’s experience might be extreme, other families also feel uneasy and would move if they could afford housing elsewhere, said Loraine Watts, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People chapter in nearby Lake Elsinore.

Law-enforcement authorities say it’s unfair to characterize the region of more than 3 million people in Riverside and San Bernardino counties as a racist bastion. But as hate crimes dropped 10 percent statewide from 2002 to 2003, the two counties had a combined increase of 19 percent, according to the California attorney general’s office.

In January, authorities in the two counties announced that, working with the FBI in separate investigations, they had arrested more than 40 people tied to white supremacist groups. The arrests, mostly on drug and weapons charges, spanned more than a year.

Authorities have said that southern Riverside County, which includes Murrieta, appears to have the most significant problem. Deputy District Attorney John Ruiz said there are occasional flare-ups of racial tension in schools and pockets of white supremacists.

“You find that some people have moved out to these rural areas because they don’t like rubbing elbows with ethnic minorities,” Mr. Ruiz said. “It’s a small, but very vocal, minority.”

Some white supremacists could have been drawn to the area for the same reason the Farr family was — cheaper housing, said Brian Levin, a criminal justice professor at California State University in San Bernardino. Cheaper housing not only draws ex-city dwellers, he said, but also ex-convicts who might have adopted racist ideology in prison.

Ethnic minority populations are increasing in the counties, as well. While the two-county population increased more than 25 percent from 1990 to 2000, the number of white residents declined from about 63 percent to less than half, according to census figures.

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