The COVID-19 pandemic not only made many people sick and killed thousands, but it motivated bigots to lash out at Chinese and other Asian Americans across New York City.
The NYPD tallied no fewer than 21 hate crimes against Asian New Yorkers since the pandemic began in the spring. To help solve these cases, better communicate with victims and bring the perpetrators to justice, the NYPD announced on Aug. 18 the formation of a new, 25-member Asian American Hate Crime Task Force.
Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison introduced the new task force and its commander, Deputy Inspector Hisao “Stewart” Loo from Manhattan South Detectives, at a Tuesday news conference at One Police Plaza.
Harrison said the hate crimes began when the public first learned the origin of the coronavirus from China. He said most of the hate crimes in New York City hit in May; the most recent case one occurred in August.
He said it was important to have detectives who understand the language, including several versions of the Chinese language to help victims trust detectives. In the past, police would call in interpreters, making it more difficult for detectives to earn the trust of Chinese Americans who were sometimes reluctant to prosecute suspects in hate crimes.
“There was a lot of anti-Asian rhetoric after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and there have been 21 anti-Asian incidents with 17 arrested,” Harrison said.
Harrison said many victims were afraid to testify and needed the support of the Asian American detectives who spoke their language and understood their concerns.
“We had people afraid to go outside because of fear for their safety,” Harrison said. “These detectives have the resources and the language skills that are important in these investigations.”
Deputy Inspector Loo said many in the Asian community accused the NYPD of not caring about them. He said this proves something different.
“Everyone was saying the police don’t care – we are showing we do care,” Loo said. “We would previously respond with a translator, but the problem with a translator is that you need to build a rapport with victims and it was difficult to do using translators because they could only pass along the message. These detectives can break the barriers.”
Acting Queens Borough President Sharon Lee applauded the creation of the taskforce saying many of these cases were in Queens.
“The rise in hate and bias incidents during the ongoing pandemic was further illuminated when, earlier this year, the NYPD Hate Crime Task Force had to create an entirely new motivation category of crimes called ‘Other Corona,’ and a substantial portion of those targeted were of Asian descent,” said Lee. “Words matter and have consequences, especially when misnomers like ‘Chinese Virus’ and ‘Kung Flu’ are promulgated. Hate and bias crimes, however, are oftentimes extremely tough to prove and require assets to allow for serious investigation.”