Rise in anti-Asian hate crimes leads to civilian patrols and undercover police


NEW YORK CITY (NewsNation Now) — The NYPD will increase outreach and patrols in Asian communities, including the use of undercover officers, amid a spike in anti-Asian hate crimes, officials said Thursday.

The department is sending undercover officers to the city’s Chinatown and other areas with significant Asian populations in an attempt to prevent and disrupt attacks, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said at a news conference.

The undercover officers are being trained now and will be on patrol by the end of the weekend, Chief of Department Rodney Harrison said. He described the complement as a “robust team” but declined to give a specific number of officers, all of whom are of Asian descent.

In a warning to would-be attackers, Shea said: “The next person you target, whether it’s through speech, menacing activity or anything else, walking along a sidewalk or on a train platform, may be a plainclothes New York City police officer. So think twice.”

The NYPD is also adding two detectives to its hate crimes task force, holding community forums in Asian neighborhoods, including Flushing, Queens, and Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and providing businesses and residents with posters and pamphlets printed in Mandarin, Korean and other languages.

NewsNation and its New York affiliate WPIX have also been following the work of the Guardian Angels —which has recently doubled its patrols around the nation’s largest city— and the group ‘Chinatown Block Watch’ which formed after the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in the U.S.

“It’s not about vigilantism,” founder Karlin Chan said Thursday. “We’re not a bunch of vigilantes out there looking for trouble.”

What it’s about, he says, is keeping a watchful eye on the neighborhood – and keeping the peace.

“These racists are cowards,” Chan said of the increase in anti-Asian hate crimes being recorded across the country. “They like to pick on someone they think they can get over. They like to pick on the seniors who happen to be walking down the street who may not even understand what they’re saying to them.”

The NYPD has tallied 26 anti-Asian incidents this year, including 12 assaults, compared with eight stemming from misplaced blame for the coronavirus pandemic at the same time last year, according to Deputy Inspector Jessica Corey, commanding officer of the department’s Hate Crimes Task Force.

Among them: a 68-year-old man punched on a subway train, a 37-year-old woman assaulted as she headed to an anti-Asian violence protest in Manhattan, and a 54-year-old woman hit in the face with a metal pipe while walking home.

“There’s anarchy in the streets of New York City,” said Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa, who’s also running to be the city’s next mayor.

“We warned everyone this was happening back at the time of the lockdown,” he said. “But everybody had window-shades on their eyes – they didn’t see it. We saw it in the streets. We saw it on the subways. We said, ‘If you don’t do anything, it’s only going to manifest and get worse,’ and unfortunately, it’s at a point that it’s out of control.”

Actor Olivia Munn drew attention to the issue in February, tweeting about an assault on her friend’s mother in Queens.

Shootings last week at three massage businesses in the Atlanta area have also raised concerns about violence against Asians. Among the eight people killed, six were Asian women.

Chief Harrison said the Asian Hate Crimes Task Force, staffed with many officers and detectives of Asian descent, was created to make victims feel more comfortable so they would move forward in the judicial process to hold perpetrators accountable.

While statistics show the number of attacks dramatically rising nationwide, there’s concern many more go unreported.

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