With crimes targeting Asian-American communities in some parts of the U.S. at an all-time high, some residents have decided to take security in their own hands by organizing their own patrols.
One such group watches over Sacramento neighborhoods, ready to respond to potential crimes against Asian individuals, households and businesses.
The group, made up of massage therapists, waitresses, construction workers and store owners, most of whom are Chinese immigrants, make the rounds from 9 p.m. onward. Some are armed, holding permits to carry concealed weapons.
Chinese restaurant chef A-Shun and other volunteers claim that they were expecting a better police response on the high incidence of break-ins and robberies victimizing Asians.
According to the Sacramento Bee, Sacramento police have taken 74 reports of robberies and 14 home invasions in the area from the beginning of the year through September 16.
In 2014, there were 32 robberies, and last year, there were a total of 40 robberies and six invasions during the same period.
A-Shun and the members expressed their frustrations to The Sacramento Bee, wondering why their community is being targeted.
“We can’t think only about ourselves. We need to think about everyone,” explained A-Shun on his decision to join the civilian patrol.
The group was organized using the Chinese social media app WeChat — the chat group that now has 1,000 members, all who share security safety tips and monitor crimes in progress.
Lead organizer Wei Xin Yang said that once a crime alert has been signaled in the chatroom, any volunteer can respond.
“We want to show that we are a force,” Yang said. “We want to reduce the loss of our compatriots and to prevent violence.”
The group laments on how the police have failed to put a stop to the growing threat.
According to the volunteers, they normally get around four calls for service every day, which are usually reports of robberies, assaults or the appearance of suspicious people. There are days when calls can spike up to eight at any time.
Recent crimes victimizing Asians have reportedly followed a recognizable pattern based on the police reports and witnesses’ statements, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Potential victims exiting their vehicles at home or in a parking lot get attacked or robbed. The suspects, as police described, are allegedly African American men between the ages of 18 to 25.
Yang, who calls his group a “neighborhood watch program”, said he does not intend to spark a racial conflict. “We don’t want these patrols. We’d rather sit at home and watch TV, but only if the police did their jobs,” he said.
“I understand the motivation, but responding to an emotionally charged, violent situation without the benefit of training and discipline could be an absolute recipe for disaster,” said Sacramento County Sheriff John McGinness.
While stating the dangers of the patrols, he also added their importance, “(the patrols) could be part of what breaks the cycle. With community involvement, we are stronger together.”