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FBI and Los Angeles Law Enforcement organize Virtual Hate Crime Summit to address anti-Asian hostilities


By Serena Chow, AsAmNews Intern

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) held a virtual summit on Thursday to discuss escalating anti-Asian hostilities and provide information on hate crimes and bias-related incidents. 

“The purpose of having a hate crime summit is to bring attention to this subject of hate in our community and how we can work together to address the issue and make the community safer for all residents, no matter their race, religion, sexual orientation, physical disability, mental disability, or any gender,” L.A.County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said. 

Since the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan, China, the pandemic has largely been personified as Chinese, with President Trump and his administration referring to COVID 19 as the  “Chinese Virus,” “Wuhan Virus,” and the “Kung Flu”.

Sheriff Villanueva shared that “COVID-19 has brought new challenges to law enforcement and unfortunately, some members of the community want to lay blame on our Asian American community after China was reported to be the epicenter.” 

Captain Eddie Hernandez of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department’s Major Crime Bureau emphasized the importance of reporting all discriminatory acts, saying that “bias-motivated crimes are particularly unsettling because they represent a heinous form of violence in which our members of our communities are actually targeted for characteristics they have no control over.” 

“It’s super important that these crimes get reported for a couple of reasons,” Hernandez said. “One, it gives us the ability to keep accurate stats and to investigate these incidents in a timely fashion….secondly, we can identify trends and patterns so we can adjust to the emerging threats…and lastly, but just as important, it says that as a society, we are not going to tolerate these hate crimes and we’re actually going to take action against them.” 

According to data from the Los Angeles Police Department, there has been a general yearly uptick in reported hate crimes, reports the Los Angeles Times. In 2019, reported hate crimes increased 10.3% over the year before, reaching their highest level since 2002.  

STOP AAPI HATE, a reporting center launched in March to monitor the surge in anti-Asian racism, has now received 2,000 reports of coronavirus-related harassment against Asian American and Pacific Islanders. 

The L.A. Police Department has reportedly investigated 10 hate crimes in the first four months of this year–three of them “COVID-driven,” Dominic Choi, an LAPD deputy chief said in a previous virtual summit. Choi added that “city residents probably had suffered more hate crimes than the numbers reflected because such encounters often go unreported,” according to the Los Angeles Times

Sheriff Villanueva also commented on the issue of underreporting hate crimes or bias related incidents, speaking particularly to challenges facing undocumented communities.

“The underreporting of crimes is a big subject of concern of ours,” Sheriff Villanueva said. “Several have identified that when we got local law enforcement involved in immigration enforcement, local undocumented communities have a tendency not to report crimes for obvious reasons…And that’s why we continue to make sure we keep an arm’s distance away from federal immigration enforcement. Whatever your immigration status is, we are here to serve and we will take any report of any crime or incident, and we will not involve federal immigration as a result of that.” 

FBI Special Agent Salvador Tamburrino weighed on the FBI’s commitment to making “civil rights a top priority” and “developing an incredible partnership with the local police department” in Los Angeles. 

“We want our agents and our intelligence analysts working with the Los Angeles Police Department who are charged with investigating these crimes…We are going to be working together as a team, sharing information, sharing intelligence, and engaging in protecting our community,” Tamburrino said. 

“We talked about civil rights. It’s a shared responsibility. This responsibility starts with the individual and the community….all of us working toward a common goal,” Tamburrino added. 

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