OAKLAND (KPIX 5) -- The week before Chinese Lunar new year is supposed to be the busiest time of the year for businesses in Oakland Chinatown. But fear of violence has kept a lot of people from shopping there. Many business owners said because of the spike in crime, they now close their stores a couple of hours early.
Virginia Leung owns a store in Chinatown's Renaissance Plaza. She said in Cantonese the pandemic and the recent violent attacks on seniors served as a double whammy. She said in her many years of doing business in Chinatown, it's never been this quiet and slow before the Lunar New Year holiday.
Actors Daniel Wu, Daniel Dae Kim, and the Metropolitan Bank in Chinatown are offering a reward for information leading to the arrest of a man who recently shoved a 91-year-old man to the ground at the corner of 8th and Harrison Streets.
"[The seniors are] defenseless people and they're good people who've been through a lot to get to this country. And for you to attack them like that, for no real reason, it's just completely beyond what I can accept. So we had to get involved," said Wu.
Wu grew up in the East Bay and will be holding a press conference with Chinese leader Carl Chan and the Alameda County district attorney's office on Monday to talk about stopping the violence.
"There's a tendency [in the Chinese community] not to report these things because we think that nothing will get done about it," said Wu. "But we need to report these things. It needs to be known."
An 88-year-old grandfather said in Cantonese he's been avoiding Chinatown lately. Friday was his first visit in a while because his daughter brought him there for his doctor's appointment.
"If my daughter didn't come out with me today, I would be scared to come to Chinatown. I used to come here to buy newspapers and groceries every day," said the Oakland resident Bin Chen. Chen said he's also avoiding his daily walk at Lake Merritt fearing someone would attack him.
A group six volunteers started at 10 a.m. Friday morning for their first shift to walk and patrol Chinatown.
"Just looking to see if there's any suspicious activity because we noticed the security around Chinatown, there's no one here," said Lyana Oun, a patrol volunteer.
The friends decided to do something after watching surveillance footage of the recent attacks and robberies targeting Asian seniors.
"We're just tired of seeing it. We've all grown up to respect the elders. And a lot of these elders aren't able to protect themselves," said Brian Truong, another patrol volunteer. "So we want to be out here to make sure that they feel safe. We (came out) to show our presence and just try to deter crime."
They're unarmed and untrained. They said their main objective is to serve as extra eyes and ears. They plan to patrol Chinatown every day for the next few weeks.
"It's our job to intervene, but at the same time call 911 and call the cops," said Oun.
Oakland police told KPIX 5 it's too dangerous to intervene. They said it's better for the volunteers to be good witnesses.
for more features.