A recent series of high profile robberies, assaults, and hate crimes against Chinese San Franciscans is leading to a growing fear in the Chinese community that they are being specifically targeted in an alarming new crime wave.
Since the beginning of the year, there have been at least eight high profile assaults against Chinese community members. Many of these attacks are happening to elderly people in broad daylight, including the highly publicized, brutal robbery and assault of an 88-year-old great-grandmother in Visitacion Valley in January, and the brazen daytime robbery of two Chinatown elder community leaders in mid-July. Just last week, an elderly Chinese couple were beaten, robbed, and carjacked at gunpoint in Merced Heights.
It’s understandable why the Chinese community is feeling increasingly threatened and outraged. Much of this is personal to me. My father has been a victim of violent crime more than once, including an incident where a mentally disturbed neighbor threatened him with violence based on his race. The City needs to respond quickly and effectively, but the criminal justice system in San Francisco isn’t set up to address rising crime against a specific minority group. This has to change, and it starts with giving the public a clear understanding of this crime wave against the Chinese community.
THE POLICE DEPARTMENT MUST IMMEDIATELY RELEASE VICTIM DATA
The public deserves to know if specific groups of people are being targeted, but the police department has refused to release the data it collects about the race or ethnicity of the victims. This makes it impossible for the Chinese community to know if their fears are warranted. If Chinese people or other groups are being targeted, what more should they do to protect themselves, and what is the police department doing to combat targeted crime against them? This data must be released to the public immediately. It is critical that the police department collaborates with the District Attorney and City leaders to review trends and let the public know if there are individuals or groups targeting people based on a protected designation, and what is being done about it. Keeping the community in the dark only creates more fear and threatens safety and security.
This is a critical first step, but we cannot stop there. As District Attorney, I will address the issue of crime against immigrant and vulnerable communities head-on:
PRIORITIZE THE PROSECUTION OF HATE CRIMES IN THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE
Despite the progress we’ve made to create a more inclusive, diverse, and welcoming city, we still experience hate crime in San Francisco. In fact, hate crimes increased by a disturbing 61% in 2018, most of which were racially or ethnically motivated. Just two weeks ago, a Chinese woman was verbally and physically harassed by a man spewing racial slurs at her on her own doorstep. No one should fear for their safety because of their actual or perceived race, color, ethnicity, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or gender.
As District Attorney, I will take four immediate steps to prioritize the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes:
- Ensure that police investigators have the tools and training needed to identify hate crimes, including asking all victims in their native language if they believe they were targeted on the basis of bias or prejudice.
- Require attorneys who make initial charging decisions to receive extensive training to identify hate crimes based on the police report, evidence, and crime trends.
- Assign all incidents of hate crimes to an experienced prosecutor specifically trained in hate crime investigation and prosecution, and ensure that the District Attorney’s Office has the necessary resources to investigate and prosecute hate crimes to the fullest extent of the law.
- Work with the police department to review crime data, including cases not charged as hate crimes, to look for potential trends against specific groups of people, identify hot spots in neighborhoods, and constantly improve our ability to protect potential victims of hate crimes through targeted public safety campaigns.
We must also recognize that protecting vulnerable communities goes beyond simply responding to crime. As part of my commitment to fighting the rising rates of hate crime in San Francisco, I will prioritize the following proactive strategies:
ENGAGE WITH VULNERABLE COMMUNITIES
My concept of Community-Centered Justice is based on the idea that the community is at the heart of everything we do in our criminal justice system. My District Attorney’s Office will proactively engage with vulnerable communities to hear safely concerns, provide information, and develop trust between law enforcement and diverse communities and neighborhoods. By engaging with the community directly and developing relationships between neighborhood interests, diverse constituencies, law enforcement, and community groups, we can better understand and address neighborhood issues.
PROTECT OUR SANCTUARY CITY POLICY
We must continue to protect our Sanctuary City policy. If crimes are not reported, we cannot identify trends and prosecute hate crimes against specifc groups of people, and undocumented immigrants are particularly vulnerable. As District Attorney I will launch an education campaign to let all immigrants, and especially undocumented immigrants, know that they can come to law enforcement, including the District Attorney’s Office, without fear of deportation against them and their family. It is critical that everyone, regardless of immigration status, can call for help and protection. Undocumented communities are not only susceptible to crimes like assault, robbery, and domestic violence, but also human trafficking, wage theft, and immigration fraud. By protecting our most at-risk communities, we make everyone safer.
We do not have to accept these ongoing attacks and crimes against members of the Chinese community. Law enforcement needs to make this a priority, and the City needs to communicate with the Chinese community about what is being done to protect our safety. As District Attorney, I will act swiftly to protect victims, especially those most vulnerable, when any of our diverse communities in San Francisco are threatened.