From targeted assaults on Chinese deliverymen to targeted looting of Asian-owned convenience stores, the significant rise of robberies targeting Asian Americans in multiple cities have authorities scratching their heads over criminals’ motivations in racially motivated attacks.
“We’re still trying to get to the root of why this is occurring,” Sacramento Police Department spokesman Detective Eddie Macaulay admitted in an interview last month. “We’ve noticed the trend, and then one of our big concerns is why is it happening, why is it happening to this particular group, and what can we do to prevent it from happening.”
Activists working closely with Asian American communities say the trend is due to a number of reasons, NBC News reports.
Community activist Karlin Chan, who works to raise crime awareness in these communities, pointed out that stereotypes and perceptions of Asians may be a contributing factor to the trend. He said criminals often look at Asians as “easier targets.”
According to Chan, perpetrators would also likely target Asians they stereotype as immigrants who can’t speak English. He believes they assume their victims won’t call the police as they are unable to communicate with law enforcement.
Chan lamented that while volunteers have been conducting outreach efforts, many crimes remain unreported in the community, further encouraging criminals to target Asians.
“If you don’t report it, the police don’t know about it,” Chan was quoted as saying.
He says another challenge for Asian victims is the difficulty in classifying and charging an attack as a hate crime as proving in court that a victim was chosen because of his/her race must be “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
In the absence of an unlikely confession, evidence must be presented to prove that an attack is indeed racially motivated, as pointed out in the 2009 American Society of Trial Consultants’ article on the subject titled “Hate Crimes and Revealing Motivation through Racial Slurs.”
A 2015 report from Syracuse University research group Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse revealed that 87% of hate crime referrals were declined by federal prosecutors since the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was passed in 2009. Most of them were reportedly rejected either due to insufficient evidence or complete lack of it.
Civil and human rights nonprofit group Asian Americans Advancing Justice launched their own anti-crime tracker standagainsthatred.org to aid in documenting incidents which have been otherwise unnoticed.
Being the target of consistent attacks have at least made the Asian American community more vigilant than ever. In Sacramento, members of the Asian Americans have not only begun working closely with the local enforcement agency, but also opted to arm themselves for protection.
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