Amid Recent Attacks, Asian Americans Skeptical of Police Help

While cities across the country grapple with what the function of police should be as they consider the future of public safety, many communities, including Asian-American ones, that have been targeted with violent attacks in recent weeks, are among those navigating tough questions about the role of law enforcement, reports Vox. California’s Bay Area has seen a dramatic increase of violence toward Asian Americans this past winter. According to Stop AAPI Hate, a group that’s been tracking such issues, there have been more than 2,500 anti-Asian incidents ranging from verbal assaults to physical attacks reported since last March, with 1,100 of those occurring in California. The Cal State San Bernardino study, which examined police logs in 16 major cities, found a nearly 150 percent increase in anti-Asian hate crimes nationwide in 2020 as well.

In San Francisco, police have increased patrols in the Chinatown area, and in Oakland, the department has dispatched a specific liaison officer to the neighborhood. Because some community members still fear there isn’t enough of a security presence, Oakland Chinatown residents have also crowdfunded more than $80,000 to help cover costs for private armed guards, a security force that could well replicate the same issues of abuse that police have struggled with. In addition to concerns about the efficacy of police as a deterrent to crimes, organizers also note that increased police could harm Black community members in particular, given law enforcement’s disproportionate violence toward Black Americans. Community leaders are also weighing questions about what longer-term efforts for preventing crime look like, and the resources needed to really make them work. A key effort that’s shown strong results is violence interruption programs, notes professor Paul Butler, a criminal justice expert at Georgetown Law. These programs, used in European countries like the UK and Belgium, aim to prevent and mediate violence before it occurs. As part of these efforts, people are trained as “community safety professionals,” who help address conflicts.

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