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Asian-American Community Leaders Call Proposed State Senate Crime Bill 'Tone Deaf'

OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- Many Asian-American organizers are pushing back on a proposed state crime bill that they warn would actually lead to more robberies and attacks.

Opponents of Senate Bill 82 filled the Pacific Renaissance Plaza in Oakland Chinatown Saturday afternoon to denounce the bill.

East Bay State Senator Nancy Skinner wrote the bill. Under SB 82, robberies under $950 that don't involve deadly weapons or result in serious injuries would be considered petty thefts.

"SB 82, at this time, it feels like we're saying yes or encouraging crimes and not punishing them," said Weng Kee Fu, owner of Ruby King Bakery.

Community leaders said many of the recent robberies caught on tape targeting Asian seniors in Oakland would be reclassified as pretty thefts. If someone was hurt, but not seriously injured, then it would be first degree petty theft under SB 82.

"We think that bill, especially at this time, is tone deaf," said Alan Auyeung with the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce.

Chinatown Chamber of Commerce president Carl Chan said most counties don't prosecute petty theft cases.

"I think we are trying to reward those who commit crime and punish the victims," said Carl Chan, president of the Chinatown Chamber.

Oakland, as an example, had 961 reports of strong-arm robberies last year. Depending on injuries and dollar amounts, under SB 82, many of those cases could be reclassified as petty thefts.

State Senator Skinner did not answer the questions KPIX 5 sent her. Instead, she released a statement that read in part, "If enacted, SB 82 will not change or reduce the criminal penalty on violent assaults such as the one that happened Tuesday or any of the other violent attacks on elder Asian residents that have occurred recently."

Skinner was referring to the robbery that killed 75-year-old Pak Ho on Tuesday in Oakland. The suspect has a criminal history, mostly robberies, dating back to 2012.

One woman at the rally said she hasn't made up her mind about SB 82.

"For me personally, maybe because I have a more forgiving nature, it's like maybe they just really needed some money so they were trying to just take my stuff, but they didn't want to hurt me, then I'm just hopeful that there will be a second chance for them," said Oakland Chinatown resident Jenn Li.

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