Several Los Angeles City Council members Wednesday introduced two motions and a resolution in an attempt to address a rise in hate crimes and harassment against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.
One motion — which was introduced by Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez and Councilmen John Lee, Mitch O’Farrell and Joe Buscaino — calls for the Los Angeles Police Department to report on data of the increased crimes against Asian Americans and on the department’s response to the trend. It also instructs the police department to report on potential resources it could use to reduce instances of hate crimes against Asian Americans and cultural sites and to identify and prosecute suspects responsible for the crimes.
The second motion — introduced by Council President Nury Martinez, Rodriguez, Councilwoman Nithya Raman and Buscaino, Lee and O’Farrell — directs the chief legislative analyst and several other departments to report on recommendations to strengthen the city’s oversight, mitigation and response to street harassment that occurs in public spaces and city-administered transit systems. It also requests the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Authority to report on past and upcoming efforts to curtail harassment on trains, buses and transportation stops.
“Racism against Asian Americans is sadly nothing new, and it’s time for action,” Lee said. “We need action that goes beyond symbolism — action that protects Angelenos of Asian descent from these kinds of hateful acts and lets everyone know that such behaviors will not be tolerated. Throughout history, we have seen racism rear its ugly head against Asian Americans. We cannot let history repeat itself by acting when it’s too late.”
Lee and O’Farrell also introduced a resolution to urge state and federal legislators to pass legislation that addresses the increase in hate directed at the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.
O’Farrell, who represents Filipinotown, part of Koreatown, and Thai Town, said police data indicate that hate crimes targeting this community have increased by 114% over the last year.
“The racist rhetoric espoused by bigots since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in scapegoating, hate, and violence,” he said. “Many of these cowardly physical assaults have targeted the elderly. Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders are cherished members of the Los Angeles community, and I call on each and every one of us to stand against xenophobia, racism, and hate wherever it is found.”
The council members cite a study by the American Journal of Criminal Justice which found that the rate of violent crimes against Asian Americans doubled between 2015 and 2018. Additionally, cities across the United States have reported a surge in violence against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Hate anywhere is hate everywhere — and hate against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders concerns all of us,” said Capri Maddox, executive director of the Los Angeles Civil + Human Rights and Equity Department. “Anyone who has faced hate or discrimination in the city of Los Angeles should report it, and can contact our department for information and resources.”
On Tuesday, community-based organizations called on the LAPD to improve its response to both hate crimes and hate incidents.
Los Angeles County’s population is 16% Asian American Pacific Islander, according to Connie Chung Joe, CEO of Asian Americans Advancing Justice Los Angeles, who presented during Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Los Angeles Police Commissioners.
“We have a very large Asian American community here. Unfortunately, we’re a year into this pandemic, and we are starting to see again a rise in anti-Asian hate and some very violent attacks that have happened in our community in the last month or two, including an elderly man who was killed in the Bay Area and just a week or two ago, a veteran who was attacked here in Koreatown,” she said.
In 2019, there were seven reported hate crimes against the AAPI community in the city of Los Angeles, while in 2020 there were 15, according to LAPD Assistant Chief Beatrice Girmala, who also said there have been three additional hate crimes reported against the community in 2021.
The number of hate crimes in Los Angeles related to race or ethnicity in general grew by 18.6% in 2020 compared to 2019, according to LAPD Deputy Chief Chris Pitcher.
Chung Joe called on the department to address the increase by:
— increasing training to officers on how to recognize and respond to incidents of hate;
— improve tracking reports of hate incidents, even if they do not rise to the level of crime; and
— refer hate incident victims to referrals to 211 or culturally specific community-based organizations that provide legal advice or counseling.
Commissioners also heard data from Manjusha Kulkarni, executive director of the Asian and Pacific Policy and Planning Council, a coalition of more than 40 community organizations that serve and represent 1.5 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in L.A. County.
The coalition joined Stop AAPI Hate, which collects data on hate and discrimination against AAPI communities throughout the country. The incidents include refusal of service, verbal harassment of elderly parents and essential workers, physical attacks and racist rhetoric. Forty percent of the hate incidents have occurred at private businesses, and public streets, public parts and pubic transport make up a combined 30% of the locations.
“These are just emblematic of the over 2,800 incident reports that we’ve received at Stop AAPI Hate,” she said.
In 2020, the organization received 114 reports of hate incidents in the city of Los Angeles and 250 reports of hate incidents in Los Angeles County, Kulkarni said.
She noted that the vast majority of the incidents were not hate crimes, but incidents such as verbal harassment, shunning and avoidance.
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