LOS ANGELES – Law enforcement officials issued a warning to local residents against hate crimes on Thursday at a meeting hosted by the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.
They warned that in times of stress like the coronavirus pandemic, when the economy, health and the social structure itself have all taken a beating, some individuals may want to make those beatings more personal by targeting Chinese Americans in a hate crime.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told attendees that the pandemic has brought new challenges to law enforcement and unfortunately, ignorant members of the community may want to lay blame on the Asian American community.
“This (virus) is something we haven’t experienced in our lifetime — something new we have to adapt to. But there is no place for hate or racial discrimination,” Villanueva said.
Los Angeles, like New York, has one of the most diverse populations in the United States, where people of every culture, nationality, race and religion live side by side — sometimes harmoniously, sometimes not, law enforcement officers said.
At the federal level, hate crime laws include crimes committed on the basis of the victim’s perceived or actual race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability.
An Ipsos poll in April finds that over 30 percent of Americans have witnessed COVID-19 bias against Asians. The STOP AAPI HATE reporting center, tasked to track coronavirus discrimination-related cases, has received 1,710 incident reports from Asian Americans across the country since mid-March.
The rising racist sentiments against Asian Americans are believed to be fueled by some U.S. politicians’ misleading comments on the pandemic.
During the COVID-19 outbreak, the Los Angeles Country Sheriff has increased uniform patrols of Asian churches and communities to ensure their safety in an effort to avoid any deplorable attacks like the one against an Asian-American woman that took place in Brooklyn, New York in April.
“Hate crimes can tear at the very fabric of our community, so we will diligently track all hate crimes and hate incidents and their investigations will receive the highest priority,” Villanueva said.
Lieutenant Andrew Meyer of the Major Crimes Bureau said that since the COVID-19 outbreak, the Sheriff’s Department has been closely monitoring the situation to keep an eye out for hate crimes and hate incidents.
“Everyone in our community has the right to be supported and protected against hate crimes and incidents. Victims should know that they have the full support of law enforcement and victim resources,” Meyer said.
Once a victim has taken the first step in reporting the incident, he assured attendees, law enforcement would do everything in its power to take these crimes seriously and respond to the victims with compassion and understanding.
Meyer said that so far this year, there have been 15 hate crimes, including one anti-Asian, and 21 incidents, also one anti-Asian. He reported that both the anti-Asian hate crime and the incident were COVID-related.
African Americans come in for the most hate crimes and incidents against them, suffering 45 percent of all Los Angeles hate crimes and 29 percent hate incidents in 2019; Hispanics are second, with 12 percent of crimes and 19 percent of incidents; Asians/Pacific Islanders came in with the least amount, 0.02 percent of crimes and 0.01 percent of incidents.
However, the officers cautioned that the COVID-19 outbreak could cause an escalation in hate incidents and crimes against the Chinese or Asian communities and urged community members to be vigilant and swiftly report any problems that arise.