San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins earned several rounds of applause as she spoke out against the recent attacks on older Asian Americans during a town hall on Tuesday.
The town hall was organized so that concerned residents could speak and air their grievances directly to local officials in the wake of the latest wave of violence in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
Jenkins, who was appointed to the position just over a month ago, told the crowd that her office is finally taking crimes against Asian Americans seriously.
“I come to you as a sign of change,” Jenkins was quoted as saying. “You’ve been struggling with feeling unheard and unseen… by the San Francisco D.A.’s Office. You are now seen, and you are now heard.”
Jenkins’ statements appear to be an indirect jab at her former boss and predecessor Chesa Boudin, who was ousted in a recall election back in June.
Boudin prosecuted 27 of the 30 suspected hate crime cases referred to him last year, but allegations that he was not hard enough on the cases led to his ousting.
Jenkins, who is running for re-election in November, helped lead the campaign to recall Boudin after she quit the District Attorney’s Office in October 2021.
During her impassioned speech, Jenkins paused periodically to allow a translator to convey her message to those who do not speak English.
According to Jenkins, she would send a message that “this type of conduct is no longer tolerated in San Francisco” by holding people accountable for crimes against Asian American residents.
Jenkins revealed that she has assembled a new team focusing on “vulnerable victims,” which includes elders. The unit, which would tackle some hate crime cases, will be headed by Nancy Tung, a former district attorney candidate.
One of the latest attacks against the elderly occurred on July 31, involving the violent assault and robbery of a 70-year-old woman by four assailants, three of whom were minors.
The incident was followed by an attack on former San Francisco commissioner-at-large Gregory Chew by a man on a bicycle who pulled over on Third Street to hit him repeatedly.
Police Chief Bill Scott acknowledged that attacks against Asian Americans in the city had been going on for over two-and-a-half years. While he observed that hate crime reports are down in the city so far, he encouraged residents to come forward if faced with incidents of racism.
“Some people are afraid to go outside,” Scott said. “We cannot allow that to be the case in this great city.”
In California, the number of hate crimes spiked in 2021 to a level similar to that during the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The nearly 1,800 crimes reported in the state in 2021 showed a 33 percent increase from the year before.