SAN JOSE (KPIX) — The largest county in the Bay Area now has its first ever hate crime task force to combat the rise in attacks in the last few years.
Meanwhile, a grassroots effort to combat an increase in violence against the Asian and Pacific Islander population has also been created.READ MORE: KPIX Reporters Remember Slain Security Guard Kevin Nishita; 'Just the Kindest Man'
Kevin Ng, who was born and raised in San Jose, said he began conducting foot patrols several months ago in the city and then expanded his efforts to Oakland and San Francisco with other volunteers in recent weeks.
Ng said he was motivated to do something about what had been happening in the community after seeing media reports about the increase in hate crime against Asians, particularly the elderly, and after talking with his own mother about her fear of becoming a victim.
“Your mom wants to go grocery shopping, but you see the fear in her eyes,” Ng said. “She’s like, ‘Son, I don’t want you to go and I don’t want you to go for me, but how can I get this food.”
The movement has grown with the help of a group called Asians with Attitude. Patrols by citizens have sprouted up on the East Coast as well.
In San Jose, police reported a 446 percent increase in race based hate crimes from 2020 to 2019.
“The next time that happens that could be my mom so we’re doing our best to spread awareness,” said John Le who also conducts foot patrols. “At the end of the day, we are putting our life on the line, it’s dangerous.”
Both Le and Ng work day jobs, and share foot patrol duties with a handful of other volunteers. They said they try to cover as much of San Jose as possible, including areas frequented by other ethnicities who have fallen victim to hate crimes.READ MORE: UPDATE: News Crew Security Guard Shot in Oakland Dies From Injuries; Photo of Suspect Vehicle Released
Maya Esparza, a San Jose city councilwoman and co-chair of the hate crime task force, said more action will be done this year to decrease the statistics in racially motivated violence.
“My cousin, six-year-old Stephen Romero, was shot and killed in the Gilroy shooting,” Esparza said. “(It) became apparent to a lot of folks in the community that it was racially motivated. This is about making systemic change in our community and not just talking about it.”
The hate crime task force, which met for the first time last Friday and will meet again on March 26, has five goals.
They include developing recommendations to address hate crimes and violence incited by hate speech, developing recommendations for use of existing state and federal laws to prevent gender based hate crimes, examining the pathology of hate crimes, examining firearm accessibility, developing recommendations on law enforcement intelligence to combat illegal gun trade and recommendations for school based programs to promote change in the community.
Esparza’s cousin, Stephen Romero, was among several others who were killed at the festival in 2019.
“I hope that he would be proud of giving hope to a lot of people in our community,” Esparza said.
For Le and Ng, the change they’re hoping to make is creating a sense of security they said the community has been robbed of by the senseless violence.MORE NEWS: Burlingame Shoppers Show Up for Small Business Saturday
“Stop Asian hate, but at the end of the day, it’s stop all hate,” Ng said. “Because hate shouldn’t exist when we could be in a community that could thrive.”