Police are stepping up patrols in San Francisco’s heavily Asian neighborhoods following a series of shootings Tuesday at massage parlors in Georgia that killed eight victims, including six Asian women.
The shooting near Atlanta on Tuesday further compounded already heightened fears in San Francisco and across the nation of Asian Americans being attacked because of their race or ethnicity. Community members have said they have seen increased levels of anti-Asian attacks since the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, with some tying the violence to racist rhetoric from former President Donald Trump.
The killings Tuesday prompted Mayor London Breed to direct the San Francisco Police Department to “increase patrols in areas with a high number of Asian residents, visitors and businesses immediately.”
“No one should have to live in fear that their race or ethnicity could make them a victim,” Breed tweeted Wednesday. The mayor said broader efforts to address the issue would be announced shortly.
Authorities in Georgia have not linked the shootings to race. They told reporters the gunman claimed the shootings were not racially motivated. The suspect allegedly said he had a sex addiction and wanted to eliminate his temptations — the women who worked in the massage parlors.
Still, the shootings contributed to anxieties many have felt in San Francisco since early February, when an elderly man from Thailand was fatally knocked to the ground while on his morning walk.
“Any type of violent crime is horrific, but when people appear to be being targeted because of their race or ethnicity that is unacceptable,” Police Chief Bill Scott told reporters.
Scott said his department is focused on making arrests to hold individuals accountable for committing crimes and on making officers more visible to prevent crimes from happening.
Just Wednesday, police announced that officers arrested three suspects in connection with the robbery of an Asian senior who was attacked inside a laundromat in Chinatown last month.
The suspects, three 19-year-old men from Antioch, are alleged to have been on a crime spree that included various auto burglaries in the area.
In addition to stepping up patrols, police are coordinating with federal authorities as well as Asian American and Pacific Islander community organizations in response to the shootings.
“The AAPI community needs to know that we stand with them,” Scott said.
The group Stop AAPI Hate has recorded nearly 3,800 reports of anti-Asian hate incidents nationwide since last March.
“There has been a documented pattern of recent attacks against our community,” the group said in a statement in response to the shootings. “Not enough has been done to protect Asian Americans from heightened levels of hate, discrimination and violence. Concrete action must be taken now. Anything else is unacceptable.”