Bay Area Observes Surge in Racially-Based Violent Crimes

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The rising number of robberies and attacks targeting senior Asian-Americans in the San Francisco Bay Area has alarmed residents and triggered police to increase the number of patrols around the region. 

The Asian-American community in the Bay Area was filled with anxiety after the series of crimes, NPR’s Rachel Martin said. There were several incidents where elder Asian-Americans were gravely injured, with one dead across the Bay Area. Civil rights and business groups in the state are speaking out.

Racially-Based Crime Surge

Eric Westervelt said some of the unjustified assaults that occurred during the daytime were caught by surveillance cameras. A 91-year-old man was one of the victims of the horrific attacks and was severely injured when he was thrown down to the pavement at Oakland’s Chinatown. A 64-year-old grandmother who just took out money from an ATM to buy gifts for the Lunar New Year was attacked and robbed in San Jose.

An 84-year-old resident, Vicha Ratanapakdee, from San Francisco, was originally from Thailand. He was on his morning walk when a man ran towards him at full speed and smashed his body onto the pavement, causing his death two days later. Video of the crime was caught on footage in late January and released to the public. Police also arrested a 19-year-old for one count of murder.

Despite the arrests, several other attacks and violent crimes have forced most Chinatown businesses to cut hours ahead of Friday’s Lunar New Year holiday, even if it is a typically bustling shopping season. Carl Chan said the managers and staff were scared, making them want to close earlier.

Chan was from Oakland’s Chinatown Chamber of Commerce. He said certain members of the community were taking it upon themselves to act. Half a dozen volunteer groups have offered protection to residents during their shopping trips.

“Some of them are young people. They want to walk Chinatown and then also helping seniors pick up their grocery and want them home,” said Chan.

Westervelt said that actor Daniel Wu urged co-stars to help support residents of the Asian-American community in their fight against violence. The actor said the criminals were filled with hate and used former President Donald Trump’s bigoted language as an excuse.

“Racist rhetoric from, you know, the pandemic has targeted us as being, you know, the reason for coronavirus. And so Asians across the board have been targeted by racial slurs, being attacked, being pushed around, being spat on,” said Wu.

There were more than two dozen brutal attacks and robberies in the Bay Area targeting Asian-American communities. It has been more difficult for residents to endure amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council has recorded nearly 3,000 incidents across 47 states in the country of anti-Asian hate crimes.

The Director of the coalition of community-based groups, Manju Kulkarni, said about seven to eight percent of the incidents had elders as their victims.

Oakland police have stepped up their patrol operations by incorporating foot and car patrols. Authorities also set up a mobile command post in Chinatown to monitor the situation. Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong said they were unsure of the basis of the attacks. The official said the pandemic has made it easier for criminals to avoid detection by local law enforcement.

“That’s why it’s so important that businesses and others that have video, that they share it with us because the mask-wearing, although it’s required and I think very important for health reasons, it also is definitely a deterrence in identifying those that are responsible for this crime,” Armstrong said.

Recently, United States President Joe Biden signed a memorandum that aimed to counter anti-Asian and Pacific Islander discrimination-based crimes. The Democrat’s order was part of a broader attempt to control racial discrimination, NPR reported.

Kulkarni noted the state had much more to do until the effects of the previous administration is controlled and removed. He said the incidents in the Bay Area were a reminder that officials need to be swift with their decisions and actions.

Danielle Joyce Ong

Danielle is a local journalist with a passion for exploring stories related to crime and politics. When Danielle isn't busy writing or reading, she is usually exploring the great outdoors and all the hiking trails in the Bay.