Los Angeles police were maintaining “high-visibility patrols” Thursday in Asian-American Pacific Islander communities in response to rising concerns about hate crimes targeting those populations and following this week’s shootings in Georgia that targeted primarily Asian women.
Although there have been questions about the motivations of the Georgia gunman, the deadly attacks fueled already heightened fears about attacks on API communities that have escalated throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Los Angeles Police Department issued a lengthy statement late Wednesday condemning the shootings and stressing that there are “no known threats of shootings or other violence against the Asian-American Pacific Islander community members in the city of Los Angeles.”
While highlighting a long partnership between the department and API community leaders and residents, LAPD officials said that out of an “abundance of caution,” the agency “augmented the deployment of patrol officers and senior lead officers on high-visibility patrols on foot and in marked police vehicles in our AAPI communities.”
“There is also ongoing outreach to members of the AAPI community to ensure the sharing of accurate information as we promote vigilance and a shared sense of awareness,” according to the department, which urged residents to report any activity they consider suspicious.
There has been an outpouring of support for the Asian community in the aftermath of the Georgia shootings, but the concern dates back to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. At a congressional hearing on the topic Thursday, “Hawaii Five-O” actor Daniel Dae Kim lamented the failure of a resolution last year condemning anti-Asian sentiment and said, “The situation has gotten worse, much worse.”
“There are several moments in a country’s history that chart its course indelibly for the future,” Kim said. “For Asian Americans, that moment is now. What happens right now and over the course of the coming months will send a message for generations to come as to whether we matter, whether the country we call home chooses to erase us or include us, dismiss us or respect us, invisibilize us or see us.”
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva took part in an online town hall on hate crimes Thursday, noting that the pandemic led people to lash out at scapegoats, and the API community became that scapegoat over the past year.
“Any community is vulnerable (to hate crime),” the sheriff said, adding that there needs to be a “coming together to look out for each other.”
“I think that’s our primary goal, is to make sure we’re all OK, we all can work and live together in peace and harmony,” he said. “And if somebody is abused and harassed in any way — sidelined, marginalized — we need to be able to step up to the plate and say, `Hey, no. That’s not going to be allowed here. That’s not permitted.’ And we want every single person to feel they’re part of the community and every single person matters. I don’t care where you come from, what you look like, who you associate with, who you worship or don’t worship, we’re all here. We’re all equal under the eyes of the law.”
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department also issued a condemnation of crimes targeting the community, saying, “We understand their fear, anger and concern, and we stand with them in denouncing these hateful actions.”
“It is the mission of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department to ensure the safety of all residents,” according to the OCSD. “Hate of any kind, and against any community, will not be tolerated.”