NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- With anti-Asian crimes on the rise in New York and around the nation, Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday mounted a campaign to crack down on those who perpetrate hate, calling for severe consequences and jail time.
Wellington Chen came to New York from Hong Kong in the 1970s, but said he was never afraid to walk the streets near his Flushing home -- until now.
"This is the first time I feel concerned," Chen told CBS2's Marcia Kramer. "Last Friday, a few blocks away from here, an Asian man like me just walking out the door, a few doors from his house, and he got smashed to the floor. Next thing he knew he woke up with broken teeth and a gash across his forehead."
Chen now puts tools to defend himself in his backpack whenever he leaves the house. And he's not alone worrying about safety.
"I'm worried about my family because their elderly and I don't speak good English. Nobody is out there to protect them," said Audrey Leung of Fresh Meadows.
Hate crimes against Asian-Americans are on the rise. There were more than 3,000 anti-Asian/coronavirus hate crimes last year nationwide.
In New York City last year there were 29, including 24 motivated by COVID-19.
That has prompted de Blasio to mount a campaign to stop Asian hate crimes, including color posters saying "This is our town too," and "I am not your scapegoat."
The mayor is pinning some of the blame on former President Donald Trump.
"The absence of the negative racist voice of Donald Trump in our daily discourse is beginning the process of healing, but the residue, as you indicated, the residue of that state-sponsored hatred is still very strong," de Blasio said.
The mayor on Tuesday called for serious consequences. Kramer pressed him to explain since his own police commissioner has railed against bail reform measures that he says treat people too leniently.
"The consequences have to be strong enough for people to get the message that it's absolutely unacceptable. Sometimes, it's a financial penalty," de Blasio said. "But when you're talking about violence, obviously jail time is what makes the impact."
Many in the Asian community told Kramer hate crimes are under-reported. The Manhattan district attorney prosecuted nine Asian hate crime cases last year, the most ever. The year before there were none.
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