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Armed Guards, Volunteers Join Police to Patrol Streets in Oakland's Chinatown

OAKLAND (KPIX) -- The community in Oakland's Chinatown is fighting back in its own way to protect citizens after a spike in violent attacks and robberies.

An alarming number of brutal assaults, many of them unprovoked and targeting the community's most vulnerable elderly members, have led to calls to stop the violence.

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Many residents told KPIX on Thursday they feel safer now compared to just a couple weeks ago. They say they're seeing more police officers on the street and in patrol cars.

There are also more armed security guards protecting stores in the neighborhood as well as volunteers working to keep streets free of violence.

"These hate crimes are not okay. We are going to fight back," said Chinatown storeowner Kenneth Lam.

A group of three suspects were caught on video when they recently tried to rob Lam's store in Renaissance Plaza and then began attacking employees. Lam was nearly run over by their getaway car.

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"They tried to kill me. They literally said that and used their car to try to run me over," said Lam.

Oakland resident Joanna Au launched a GoFundme campaign, raising more than $87,000 to date, to hire armed guards. She launched the campaign soon after the wave of attacks on business owners and elderly Asians.

"I fell down on the ground and got dragged five feet or so. Then I let go of my bag, but my leg by that time got hurt," said robbery victim John Ching.

"The seniors were afraid to walk down the streets. But now they are back on the streets and feel much safer, which is a good sign," said Carl Chan, the President of the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce.

Oakland Chinatown volunteer patrol
Oakland Chinatown volunteer patrol (CBS)

Organized patrols consisting of more than 60 volunteers have also become a part of the solution. Additionally, nearly 500 air-horns have been delivered to store owners and seniors, who now have another way to call for help.

Many store owners have kept quiet, fearing they'll be targeted again. Lam wants them to think differently now.

"If we have robbers coming into stores, we'll sound the horns," said Lam.

"These are like viruses. If it happens in this community, it's going to spread to other communities," said Ching.

Oakland Police say several things have been done by the department to address the spike in violent crime in the neighborhood. Patrols have been prioritized and some resources allocated to the area.

Police Chief LaRonne Armstrong has also added a liaison officer specifically for this neighborhood in light of the recent attacks.

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