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New York police create Asian hate crimes task force

The task force was created following a string of hate crimes and an outcry from the Asian American community about the police response.

New York City police on Tuesday announced the formation of a task force focused on a growing number of hate crimes against people of Asian descent.

The announcement comes amid a backdrop of anger and violence directed at Asians and Asian Americans since the coronavirus pandemic, which President Donald Trump has blamed on China.

New York Police Department officials said the Asian American community has urged police to aggressively investigate and prosecute any crimes connected to the Asian background of victims.

"The sentiment among the Asian Americans is that not enough is being done," Deputy Inspector Stewart Loo said at a news conference. "Everyone’s saying the same thing: 'The police don’t care, Asian Americans' voices don’t matter.' This task force is saying otherwise."

The Asian American community has been critical of the department and the way it has handled cases but welcomed Tuesday's news.

Jo-Ann Yoo, executive director of the New York City-based Asian American Federation, said by email that the creation of a task force has been necessary for months.

"Asian American Federation has been calling for the NYPD to help raise safety awareness in the pan-Asian community since January," she said.

The task force has been deployed on cases where no police reports were filed but where social media video has been posted, Loo said. "We've actively searched" for victims in some cases, he said.

The task force will include collaboration with translators in cases where they're needed, the deputy inspector said. "We do have certified translators that are police officers that do reach out," he said.

Among recent New York City incidents involving Asian Americans was a verbal attack on a woman in a subway this month during which she was blamed for the "kung-flu" and told to go back to her country, which is the United States.

On July 17, two suspects allegedly slapped an 89-year-old woman of Asian descent on a street in Brooklyn. Police said they also set her shirt on fire but that she was not seriously injured.

In April, researchers reported a surge in anti-Asian racism related to COVID-19. NBC New York reported last week that there have been 316 racist incidents against people of Asian descent between late March and mid-July in New York City.

Yoo, of the Asian American Federation, said that although overdue, the task force will benefit the community and victims.

"Utilizing the language and cultural expertise of Asian language speaking law enforcement officers to assist victims of hate crime is welcomed, as was promised by the NYPD to the community in the early days of the quarantine," she said.

Yang Chen, executive director of the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) said too many Asian Americans have been victims of hate crimes.

"AABANY looks forward to a time when Asian Americans can go about their daily lives without having to look over their shoulders, worrying about when they might be subject to attack or harassment, simply because they are Asian," he said by email.

"AABANY will continue its efforts to encourage victims to come forward and report anti-Asian violence and harassment, to seek justice, and to educate the broader community about eradicating racism and xenophobia in our society," Chen said.