Newly minted San Jose Police Chief Anthony Mata walked among shoppers buying jewelry and stores selling religious statues, Vietnamese snacks, and more on the rise in anti-Asian American hatred in the Bay Area and beyond.
“We need to get into our community,” Mata said, adding that they have more foot patrols in the area. “Right now we know that our Asian community has a lot of fear and fear.”
Mata was accompanied by Mayor Sam Liccardo and council member Maya Esparza on the tour of the popular shopping center in the city’s mostly Vietnamese Little Saigon community.
Her presence sent a strong message to Sam Ho, who said he would like to see police department meet-and-greet monthly.
“When people who are responsible for our safety take the time to come, it shows the community they care about,” he said.
Over the past year, police captains in the city’s four patrol divisions have had the discretion to deploy foot patrols overtime by officers as a kind of quick-reacting team to resolve quickly burgeoning crime and quality of life problems identified by local residents and business owners. Recently, they appear to have been deployed to provide an extra sense of security to Asian Americans who worry about random attacks because of their real and perceived ethnicity.
“The purpose of the foot patrols is to visually deter crime while addressing quality of life issues and liaising with our community including residents, business owners and visitors to San Jose,” said police spokesman Steven Aponte said in a statement this news organization. “The other factor behind all of this is that we are sensitive to the increase in violent and racial crimes against the AAPI community across the country. When these foot patrols are visible, all members of our community feel more secure. “
In the city’s historic Japantown neighborhood, Gene Yoneda, longtime owner of Minato Japanese restaurant, said he was grateful for the extra attention.
“I applaud it. I can’t believe everything you see on the news, especially in the elderly, ”said Yoneda. “The presence can prevent some people (from attack). If it makes people feel safer, I’m all for it. “
Last month, Japantown citizens began recruiting volunteers for a community patrol to bolster a thinly stretched police force by using citizens as eyes and ears for potential agitators. The visitor-friendly approach also serves to let people know that they are I watch what’s going on in front of their store fronts and collection points.
SAN JOSE, CA – APRIL 3: New San Jose Police Chief Anthony Mata visits Little Saigon in a demonstration of support for Asian communities and the tide of recent violence on Saturday, April 3, 2021, in San Jose, Calif. ( Karl Mondon / Bay Area News Group)
Ho in Little Saigon said these types of groups could be a valuable resource for police officers, but the department needs to build that trust and communication through regular contact, not just one-off visits.
“You want to involve the community and get their support because you can’t always be everywhere,” said Ho.
Mata said he values the unique community knowledge these civic groups offer, but it is important that they don’t put themselves at risk. He plans to meet with the Japantown group to see how his department can work with them, he said.
Growing anti-Asian violence across the country, largely sparked by exposed causal links between Asian countries and COVID-19, had subsided since the beginning of the pandemic, but had risen to a boiling point since the start of the year, reaching a tragic climax with a series of series- Spa shootings in the Atlanta area that killed eight women, six of whom were Korean and Chinese.
The Bay Area has been the site of several high-profile anti-Asian attacks, with cases in Oakland and San Francisco attracting national attention and prompting a broader movement to encourage both authorities and Asian communities – spanning a variety of ethnic identities – to be more explicit and open about them and recognize why crimes against these populations have not been adequately reported and broadly investigated.
San Jose has not been spared baffling attacks, including a hateful sexual assault on Diridon Station by a Filipino woman by a man who was reported to hurl racist swear words while beating her before bystanders intervened. But awareness of lower-intensity encounters has also increased, including one this week in Los Gatos when a Filipino doctor was knocked to the ground while walking down the street, reportedly by a hateful cyclist who told her she was going to China to return.
In the Grand Century Mall, business owners and patrons brought up the rise in anti-Asian American incidents and hate crimes, as well as a range of car break-ins, wallets, and other break-ins. Mall owner Lap Tang said he would like to see “more officials come to the area to deter criminals.”
It was a feeling Liccardo had heard from shopkeepers and customers during his visit.
“It is a time in big cities when there are complex police-community relationships,” he said. “We mostly hear from the community that they want more police, not less.”