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Anti-Asian hate crime reports exploded in 2021, San Francisco police say

Some experts have partially attributed 2021's explosion of anti-Asian hate crime reports in San Francisco to anti-Asian and anti-Pacific Islander prejudice that was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.Mario Tama/Getty

San Francisco officials pledged to better protect Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders as preliminary data from the city’s police department showed the number of people who reported being the victim of an anti-AAPI hate crime in the city last year increased by 567 percent compared with the previous year.

There were eight anti-AAPI hate crimes reported to the San Francisco Police in 2019 and nine in 2020. In 2021, there were 60. These numbers are considered preliminary until the California Department of Justice makes its final determination on hate crime statistics throughout the state, police said.

San Francisco’s police chief, Bill Scott, said at a Tuesday news conference that one man was believed to be responsible for half of the incidents reported last year. Scott said the man, who was not named, was arrested in August and could face enhanced hate crime charges.

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‘’We will do everything we can to make those arrests, to hold perpetrators accountable,’’ San Francisco Mayor London Breed, said Tuesday. ‘’I’m angry about the violence that has continued to impact many of the people who are part of our Asian community but especially our seniors,’’ she added.

Reports of anti-Asian hate crimes increased more than any other category of hate crime last year, according to the preliminary police report. The city recorded a slight decrease in reports of hate crimes against Arabs or Muslims and Latinos. Anti-Jewish hate crimes were up, from five to eight reports in 2021.

At the news conference, Scott said law enforcement would be present at public celebrations of Lunar New Year, which officially begin next week and will include the yearly parade the city is known for. ‘’If anybody thinks that San Francisco is an easy place to come in and terrorize our Asian communities, you are sadly mistaken — and you will be held accountable,’’ Scott said.

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In a tweet, Breed highlighted measures the city has taken, such as a program that assigns people to accompany seniors who are worried about safety to their personal appointments and increased patrols in neighborhoods with more Asian American residents, while acknowledging, ‘’We need to do more.’’

The jump in hate crime reports comes against the backdrop of a rise in anti-Asian hate across the United States that some experts say is fueled in part by the coronavirus pandemic.

In a survey conducted in April 2021 by the Pew Research Center, 81 percent of Asian American adults said violence against them is increasing. Nearly half said they experienced at least one of five types of situations — ranging from feeling like someone was about to attack them to being blamed for the pandemic or being the subject of a racial slur — since the start of the pandemic. Only 32 percent reported that someone expressed support for them in that same period.

California is home to four of the five cities with the largest share of Asian Americans in the United States. In San Francisco, a spate of attacks against the elderly in the streets of Chinatown, many caught on camera, fueled fear and put pressure on city officials to do more to prevent them.