New crime statistics in New York City show a significant increase in anti-Asian hate crimes this past year.
Incidents targeting Asians rose by 361 percent, from 28 last year to 129 as of Sunday, the New York Police Department said at a news conference this week.
With several potential factors behind the surge, like increased awareness around reporting these crimes, Russell Jeung, co-founder of the hate incident reporting forum Stop AAPI Hate, cautioned against interpreting the data as an exact reflection of the extent to which Asian Americans experienced racism.
“It is consistent with a general surge in racism against Asian Americans, first of all," Jeung said. "It’s consistent with the increase in crimes during the epidemic. And then thirdly, reflective of the Asian American community more likely to report."
The news conference featured findings from the NYPD Hate Crime Review Panel, a civilian group that helps law enforcement identify potential hate crimes. James Essig, chief of detectives, said that anti-Asian incidents in part drove the city’s 100 percent overall increase in hate crimes this year. Crimes relating to sexual orientation also fueled the general jump, growing from 29 to 85 cases, as well as those targeting the Jewish community, which went from 121 to 183.
Officials said that in the 503 total hate crimes this year, the NYPD made 249 arrests, representing a 106 percent increase from last year. Crimes included a range of “heinous” assaults to vandalism, Devorah Halberstam, the panel’s chair, said. Perpetrators included individuals with mental illness.
Jeung said the increase in anti-Asian bias could be due, in part, to the political climate, as both parties have perpetuated anti-Asian rhetoric in both speech and policies.
A Pew Research Center poll found the public has negative views toward China, with 55 percent of respondents saying they supported limiting Chinese students’ study in the U.S. A separate study published in September by the Committee of 100, a nonprofit organization of prominent Chinese Americans, showed that people with Asian names were more likely to be accused of spying, but less likely to be found guilty. An overwhelming number of those defendants were of Chinese descent.
Many of the hate crimes, particularly in New York City, have occurred in low-income areas and enclaves that have already suffered from the effects of the pandemic, Jeung said. Aside from the lack of economic opportunity, housing insecurity and scarce mental health resources, one potential impetus for crimes targeting Asian Americans could be the perception that they are easier, softer targets and are less likely to report.
“The anti-China rhetoric, the white supremacy — that does influence all sectors of society and that Asians are portrayed as outsiders either to the country or to a neighborhood,” Jeung said.
However, he explained that not all Asian Americans want to rely on carceral solutions to deal with the violence. The Stop AAPI Hate study showed respondents considered more education and public awareness as the top solution to address anti-Asian hate.
Jeung said his group is advocating the implementation of more ethnic studies programs in public schools, where youth experienced higher rates of discrimination compared to those in private institutions, to help mitigate bias.
“Promoting ethnic studies K through 12 will better serve low income communities, who have to go to public schools, where their kids are being bullied more,” he said. “We are wanting to prioritize communities that often don’t have voices.”
Others who participated in the study also advocated community-based solutions and civil rights legislation and enforcement.
“Community Safety could mean just feeling comfortable in a neighborhood like you belong. It can mean being able to go outside without having to avoid places where you think you’re going to get harassed,” Jeung said. “Policing doesn’t necessarily equate to community safety.”
Jeung added: “The broader community sees justice and safety in bigger ways. And that’s an educated empathetic community that treats everybody with safety and respect.”