Supervisor Gordon Mar called a hearing Thursday on package theft, burglary and robbery. Police told the Board of Supervisors that data shows crimes are down. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Chinese residents tell supervisors they are more afraid despite data showing crime is down

Police lack demographic data to say if particular ethnic groups targeted

Police data shows property crime is on the decline throughout San Francisco.

However at a Board of Supervisors hearing on package theft and home burglaries Thursday, more than a dozen Chinese residents, most of them seniors, told city officials they are more afraid than ever

Police presented crime statistics showing a downward trend on the rates of home burglaries, robberies and package theft at the hearing, which was called by District Four Supervisor Gordon Mar.

However, Mar disputed the data and sided with community members who believe their neighborhoods are growing more dangerous.

“It doesn’t reflect the reality that residents are seeing in the neighborhoods, and that it really appears that these crimes are increasing in certain neighborhoods and communities, like the Chinese community,” Mar said.

Captain Tim Falvey, commanding officer of the general crime unit, said statistics showed a 10 percent drop between 2015 and 2018 in home invasion property crimes, a category that includes burglary, robbery and “hot prowls,” where the suspect enters an occupied residence. Falvey partially credited the decline to a re-established burglary unit and the expansion of neighborhood crime units to every district.

“I think that is a significant improvement and reinforces that some of the things we are doing in the burglary unit and robbery unit are working,” Falvey said.

However, this did not dissuade or comfort many residents who came to express their growing fears and recount their personal experiences with home invasion and the residual trauma.

“When it gets dark we are afraid to go out….when anyone walks around outside it causes a tremor in my heart,” said Tso Wong, a Sunset resident.

Fears of crime have been stoked in the Chinese community by a botched police response to a robbery and beating at a Chinese owned bakery and a brutal attack on 88-year-old Yik Oi Huang in Visitacion Valley Park.

“I would like to find out why the Chinese are becoming targets for the burglars,” said Sherry Lau, a sunset resident.

However, Falvey said that while police do collect data on the ethnicity of crime victims, they are not able to say whether specific ethnic groups are being targeted for specific crimes.

A police spokesperson told the Examiner the department is compiling information from incident reports in response to a public records request from Mar’s office, but currently “don’t have any demographic data to provide at this time.”

“They can’t even answer the question the Chinese community has been raising for years, ‘Is the Chinese community being disproportionately targeted?’ which is not acceptable,” Mar said.

Furthermore, Mar said language and cultural barriers prevent portions of the Chinese community from reporting property crimes to the police and as a result they are not reflected in the data.

“This hearing is really just the first step in bringing greater attention to these issues and pushing for stronger and more effective strategies,” Mar said.

Mar concluded the hearing by committing to working with the District Attorney’s office and the Police Department to explore new strategies to improve data collection around victim demographics.

Mar will also form a district four working group on home property crime and holding a town hall meeting on the same topic on May 26th.


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