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As attacks on Asian Americans in Chicago rises, a group turns to a device for protection

Activists turn to new method to help protect Asian American residents from attacks
Activists turn to new method to help protect Asian American residents from attacks 02:35

CHICAGO (CBS) – With recent attacks against Asian Americans in Chicago, community groups are getting creative with how to proactively keep them safe.

CBS 2's Marissa Perlman learned how one tool can help people call for help.

The goal is to protect older Asian American residents, after at least two attacks since December, one of which turned deadly in Chinatown.

But community leaders called it a short-term solution to fighting violence against Asian American residents.

It's a pint-size device with a powerful pitch.

"You just pull the pin out and to make the noise stop you shove it back in," said Vivian Zhang, with a Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community.

Zhang showed CBS 2 how the device works. The idea is to scare a potential attacker or alert others you need help.

Perlman: "So why is this necessary right now for the community?"

"There's been a lot of concern over safety recently," Zhang said. "Safety's always been a discussion in Chinatown, but with recent events it's even been more of a pressing issue."

The outreach comes as anti-Asian hate crimes in Chicago have been on the rise since the pandemic, according to police data, from just two crimes in 2020 to nine in 2021 and eight in 2022.

Video from last month shows two people attacking and robbing an older Asian man on the Red Line.

Woom Sing Tse, 71, was shot and killed in Chinatown in December 2021, which had the community calling for safety changes.

"It's a multi-layered complicated issue," said Zhang said.

The group Sour Over Hate, based in New York, saw a need and sent hundreds of the alarms to Chicago groups.

More than 600 have been handed out so far, but will they make an impact?

We went to downtown Chinatown to find out.

The high volume did force a few passersby to turn around, or cover their ears. These advocacy groups note one alarm isn't going to protect everyone, but it can provide seniors the feeling of safety when they're outside.

"It's not an easy feeling for people to feel targeted all the time," said Zhang.

These devices will be handed out at community events in Chinatown in the coming weeks. The coalition is also working to help this community get out and vote, ahead of the November election.

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