A succession of high-profile crimes against Chinese seniors in San Francisco is fueling suspicion that the community is being disproportionately targeted for attack.
But whether that belief is borne out in city crime statistics has yet to be seen.
Several months ago, a series of home invasion robberies targeting Chinese families drove a city supervisor to ask police for demographic data on crime victims.
On Tuesday, Supervisor Gordon Mar said it was “unacceptable” that police had not provided him with the information he wanted.
“They still haven’t responded despite the violent attack on two Chinese community leaders in Chinatown,” Mar told reporters, referencing a highly publicized robbery from July 15.
Mar formally asked Tuesday that Police Chief Bill Scott release the demographic data for the victims of crimes including robbery, burglary and theft over the last decade.
He also asked the City Attorney’s Office to draft legislation that would require the San Francisco Police Department to collect and report the data annually.
“This information is critically important to strengthening our crime prevention strategies in ensuring that all communities are safe,” Mar said at the Board of Supervisors meeting. “It’s information that police departments in other cities already provide to the public.”
David Stevenson, an SFPD spokesperson, said in a statement that the department has already started responding to Mar.
“We have provided specific crime data to Supervisor Mar’s office and look forward to further discussions about potential legislation regarding the release of this type of data,” Stevenson said.
While Stevenson said both violent and property crime are down in The City compared with last year, he added that “incidents of violence affecting any of our city’s communities are unacceptable.”
“All San Franciscans deserve to feel safe in their homes and in public,” Stevenson said.
The issue of crimes against the Chinese community has been simmering for months and has a longer history going back years.
On New Year’s Eve 2018, a man allegedly sexually assaulted a 99-year-old woman at her apartment in Chinatown.
Then in January, an 88-year-old grandmother was found brutally beaten at a playground outside her home in Visitacion Valley.
In May, a 74-year-old woman was kidnapped during her morning walk in Crocker-Amazon and raped for as many as five hours.
Most recently, three men allegedly robbed the 56-year-old leader of a Chinatown group on July 15, lifting him off his feet and throwing him to the ground at Pacific Avenue and Stockton Street. Police said a 69-year-old man who tried to intervene was knocked unconscious.
The suspects made off with a wrist watch.
In many of the cases, the suspects have been identified as African American in Chinese-language media, raising concerns that tensions are being strained between the black and Chinese communities in The City.
“It is important that we see what the actual data shows in terms of both the victims and the suspects,” said Mar, the supervisor. “These are things that we have to just grapple with. We can’t avoid it. I’m very committed to continuing to work on these issues in a way that brings our communities together and does not foster divisiveness.”
The crimes have also become an issue in the district attorney’s race.
On Tuesday morning, candidate Suzy Loftus held a campaign event at Portsmouth Square where she pledged to increase trust between authorities and the Chinese community.
“We have got to build systems that are accountable to the people who need us most,” Loftus told the San Francisco Examiner.
Chinatown community member Richard Ow was among those in attendance.
Ow told the Examiner he has seen an increase in Chinese seniors being targeted and said he himself has been pick-pocketed three times while riding the bus down down Stockton Street.
“The seniors don’t have much resistance,” Ow said.
Mar has requested that police release the numbers no later than Sept. 3.
Whether the data ends up confirming the perception that Chinese residents are being targeted, Police Commission Vice President Damali Taylor said “at the end of the day it doesn’t matter.”
“The reality is that we have members of our community that are being hurt and it is our responsibility to take care of them,” Taylor told the Examiner.