SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- San Francisco Mayor London Breed and Police Chief Bill Scott on Tuesday highlighted a surge in hate crimes against the city's Asian-American and Pacific-Islander (AAPI) communities as seen in new statistics from the police department.
At a Tuesday press conference in the city's Chinatown district, Breed and Scott spoke about the preliminary police data which shows the number of AAPI hate crime victims in San Francisco rose from nine in 2020 to 60 victims in 2021, nearly a 600% increase.
Breed said the data doesn't even tell the whole story and pledged to work with the police department to heighten protection and awareness, especially as the Lunar New Year celebrations approach.
"That's only people that are reporting those crimes. I know that there are a number of people that are not reporting those crimes," said Breed. "We want to make sure people feel safe, we want to make sure people are comfortable with reporting. We are aggressively in the process of doing recruitment with the police department. We are doing everything we can as the department has a number of people who are absent because of COVID to fill those officers with overtime so that we can make sure these communities are protected as we promised.
Breed laid some of the blame for the rise in hate crimes in the city and nationwide on former President Donald Trump and his rhetoric during the start of the COVID pandemic.
Raw Video: San Francisco Mayor Breed, Police Chief Scott Remarks On AAPI Hate Crime
The hate crime dataset released Tuesday is considered preliminary because the California Department of Justice makes the final determinations on data counts for hate crime reporting statewide.
"The number of hate crimes targeting members of our AAPI communities is alarming, but it's important to remember that San Francisco police officers have made arrests in the majority of these cases," Chief Scott said in a prepared statement. "In fact, one perpetrator investigated and arrested by our Taraval Neighborhood Team in was charged with 31 hate crime enhancements alone — more than half of last year's cases. Hate crimes represent one of SFPD's highest clearance rates for any crime category, and we hope that sends a forceful message to would-be hate criminals considering any kind of bias-motivated attack in our City — San Francisco will hold you accountable."
Scott noted the department has expanded the number of languages that can be used by people to contact the department and urged citizens to report any suspicious activity to police, even if it involves a non-emergency issue that does not amount to a crime.
"The reason being, it may help a future case if the individual who's committing those types of acts later commits a hate crime," said Scott. "That may help the case. So we still need you to call."
Scott urged those attending Lunar New Year gatherings in the city to always be aware of their surroundings and of strangers asking for money and of those who are looking to take advantage of people who may be carrying gifts or cash.
The press conference by the mayor and police chief came minutes after another Chinatown press conference just minutes earlier by a Vietnamese victim in a 2019 baseball bat attack and his lawyers who announced they were filing a federal lawsuit against District Attorney Chesa Boudin, accusing him and his office of mishandling his case in 2019.
Ahead of both press midday press conferences Tuesday, Boudin released a press statement announcing the first meeting of his office's AAPI Elder Abuse Steering Committee, formed to address the gaps in services for AAPI elderly victims and develop best practices in responding to the crime surge. The DA's office also announced an expansion of its victim services division which includes the hiring of 10 new victim advocates who are fluent in Cantonese, Mandarin, Tagalog, Hindi and other languages.
Also Tuesday, San Francisco Supervisor Gordon Mar, who authored and passed a crime data disclosure ordinance in 2019 in response to increasing attacks against AAPI residents, said he was pushing for a multi-level response to the current crisis.
"This astronomical rise in anti-Asian hate crimes vindicates and affirms the long-held feeling in the Asian community that they are being targeted," said Mar in a press statement. "This is a crisis, and requires a crisis-level response ... That's why I commissioned a comprehensive Citywide API Community Violence Prevention and Victim Support Plan, created the Storefront Vandalism Relief Grant Program, and increased resources for community ambassadors, senior safety escorts, victim services and cross-racial community building."
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