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Chinatown foot patrol works to keep Oakland's AAPI community safe

Chinatown foot patrol works to keep Oakland's AAPI community safe
Chinatown foot patrol works to keep Oakland's AAPI community safe 05:18

OAKLAND -- After being rocked by a string of hate crimes targeting AAPI citizens since 2020, Oakland's Chinatown came up with their own solution to deter crime by building community. 

The Chinatown foot patrol puts in the steps every day to keep the neighborhood safe. 

Oakland Chinatown foot patrol
Oakland Chinatown foot patrol CBS

"The group they're sort of stewards of the community, they make people feel safe, but they make people comfortable," Chinatown foot patrol participant  Marc Lowe told CBS News Bay Area. "With all the things that the community has been through over the last couple of years, I think it just relaxes everybody."

He has lived in Oakland for seven years, but Lowe considers himself new to the area compared to his peers who have lived in the area for decades. But his passion for keeping the neighborhood safe is just as strong. 

"I was just wanting to do something to help the Chinese community," said Lowe. "I was active in San Francisco where I grew up when I was a kid, and this was just a way to get back."

The foot patrol is sponsored by the city. Each day members of the East Bay Toishan Association gather for their walk. They're easy to spot with their orange uniforms and have established deep connections with Oakland's Chinatown residents, business owners, and the Oakland Police. 

It's these relationships and the patrol's visibility that have played part in thwarting crime and harassment in the area, an approach Lowe believes is what makes all the difference for safer streets. 

 Lowe says he hasn't seen a significant crime event while on patrol for months. 

"We're more trusted than regular police officers," Lowe explained. "[People] come to the orange jackets to ask for help. Fewer things have happened like the more stuff I used to have a year ago on our routes."

Lowe may not speak Chinese but he's formed a relationship through Luna the dog, the patrol's unofficial mascot. 

"Luna has helped a lot actually. She got in before I did," Lowe said. "She doesn't speak Chinese either. But she's cuter than I am."

The group considers themselves an extra layer of eyes and ears in a community scarred by the spike in AAPI hate and they're not afraid to step in. Lowe says the group has deterred harassment just by using their quick wit. 

"It's not all about protection, although we do feel like we're deterring. Most of our role as a deterrent is having cameras, being able to call the police immediately, making noise," said Lowe. 

He describes an instance where an elderly Chinese man was being harassed and the group stepped in. 

"A bunch of the volunteers ran to the scene of the crime, which was kind of dangerous. I stayed back with Luna and called the cops," Lowe recalled. "So we were able to corner the perpetrator until the cops got there."

Their tactics appear to work. Store owners say they feel safer when they see the orange jackets pass by. 

"Thank you for your warranty of help!" said one store owner who offered the foot patrol tea. "We have more customers come and more customers is more money. We appreciate your service."

"It's like that with a lot of the merchants there's a lot of appreciation for the extra work that we do but I think it's it's more than just protecting the neighborhood," explained Lowe. "It's also stewardship of the culture and allows people kind of be how they normally are."

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