Are hate crimes against Asian-Americans decreasing, or just going unreported?

By Gilda P. Balan, Correspondent

SAN FRANCISCO – San Francisco Mayor London Nicole Breed’s recent claim that hate crimes against Asian-Americans had been decreasing lately was generally welcomed, but fears were also raised that it was due to more incidents going unreported.

The San Francisco mayor reported last week what was deemed as a major accomplishment: the SF Police Department reported a dramatic drop in cases of anti-Asian hate last year, after it had experienced a 500 percent increase the year before.

Joining the city’s Lunar New Year festivities, Breed cited the statistics during a press conference. She urged the Asian American community to remain alert for possible hate crimes against their community.

Some community leaders and advocates, however, said the dramatic drop in hate crimes, while noteworthy, may not show the complete story.

They expressed the need for caution as hate crimes were still being reported not only throughout the state, but the entire nation, especially where there are large pockets of Asian-American communities.

Breed said San Francisco “saw a significant decline last year” in attacks against Asian-Americans. She said this was the result of a coordinated effort among the SFPD, the newly-elected district attorney, and community-based nonprofit organizations.

Rex Tabora, executive director of the Asian Pacific American Community Center, however, had a different take. He said, “What they don’t take into account is the non-reported hate crime that occurs on a regular basis.”

His center is based in Visitacion Valley, which is a predominantly Asian-American neighborhood.

By his estimates, Tabora said more than 75 percent of Americans of Asian descent would usually not report crimes they experienced, unless it involved serious violence.

The Stop AAPI Hate coalition which receives self-reported anti-Asian incidents likewise questioned the statistics cited by the mayor.

Cynthia Choi, co-founder of the coalition, told The San Francisco Standard that “law enforcement numbers will never capture the full extent of the racism and hate our communities face,” adding that most of the hate incidents do not even qualify as crimes under the law. Even when they are actual crimes, Asian Americans are unlikely to report them to the police.

In fact, Stop AAPI Hate recorded 479 incidents in 2021 compared to the SFPD’s official figure of 60 incidents.

Ridding the city and the state of the hate “is something that’s going to take a consistent effort,” said Brian Quan, president of the Chinese American Democratic Club.

Even if the data presented by the mayor was generally correct, the Asian-American community should not let its guard down until hate crime against them is virtually eradicated.

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