Stephan has been the San Diego County District Attorney since 2017.
The dramatic increase in hate incidents and hate crimes against Asian Americans and the Pacific Islands (AAPI) since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic is alarming.
More than 6,600 incidents of racism and discrimination have been reported to a national coalition called Stop AAPI Hate between March 2020 and March 2021. Videos depicting violence against AAPI individuals, like Pak Ho, 75, who was thrown to the ground in Oakland and later died of a head trauma, or mass The tragedy that occurred in the Atlanta area two months ago, when six Asians were shot and killed, has deeply affected the AAPI community around the world and has affected all who believe in dignity for all.
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Here in San Diego, we have seen a similar increase in hate crimes from AAPI. After receiving no anti-AAPI hate crimes cases in 2018 or 2019, our office has filed criminal hate crimes cases in three anti-AAPI cases since the start of the pandemic.
Since becoming a San Diego County District Attorney, tackling hate crimes has been a priority for me. Hate crimes not only affect the targeted victim, but create a ripple effect of fear and pain for all those who share the characteristics of victims. As a result, we have almost tripled our prosecutions and convictions for hate crimes. My office regularly trains law enforcement agencies on how to identify and investigate hate crime cases. And we’re working with a variety of community leaders on how to deal with hate incidents before they turn into hate crimes.
My office also launched the state’s first online hate crime reporting tool in April 2020, when the country initially saw the first wave of anti-AAPI hate crimes. We have encouraged the public to report hate incidents and hate crimes in non-emergency situations directly to our office so that we can identify trends, ensure that no potential hate crime cases fall through the cracks and provide victim services. The reporting tool can be found at sandiegoda.com under the Helping Victims tab, or the public can also call our hotline at (619) 515-8805 or email us at [email protected] Through our reporting tools, we received 155 tips, including 13 hate incidents targeting the AAPI community. Most of these hateful incidents have been largely motivated by the fact that Asians are responsible for the pandemic.
But we can all do more to fight hate. We need to make our communities more aware of the importance of reporting and documenting hate crimes. We know that hate crimes are one of the least reported categories of crimes. If you are the victim or witness of a hate incident or hate crime, it is imperative that you report it to law enforcement. In an emergency, always call 911.
We need to better support victims of hate crimes. Most hate crimes occur on our streets, sidewalks and parking lots when we go to work or run errands, where witnesses are required to see and hear the incident. The fear experienced by victims of hate crimes is unique. They are targeted for characteristics they cannot change: their race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, gender or disability. Standing by and supporting these victims in these critical post-crime moments can give them the strength to report the crime and feel safe in their community knowing that allies are there.
For our non-English speaking victims of hate crimes, we need easier access to interpretation services. While English and Spanish are the two most widely spoken languages in our region, Tagalog, Chinese and Vietnamese are third, fourth and fifth respectively. Language barriers should not prevent any victim of crime from reporting.
Finally, we need more anti-stigma programs for our youth. The latest information shows that adolescents and adults are being recruited by white supremacist and white nationalist groups. The recruiting message is simple but effective: you lose your power and influence to other races. This message sent to these young minds must be countered by one of the teaching values of racial equity, diversity and inclusion.
We are fortunate to have a large and vibrant AAPI community in San Diego County, and we must do whatever we can to protect and support them and let them know that we support them against prejudice and hate, and we will hold those who harm them. indebted.