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In the Wake of Anti-AAPI Violence, SF Launches 'Community Safety Teams,' Expands Escorts for Seniors

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Lun Fong, 87, holds a yellow rose at a gathering in Portsmouth Square in San Francisco’s Chinatown on March 20, 2021. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

San Francisco is launching a new community safety team effort and is expanding its senior escort program to protect members of Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in the face of rising attacks.

Mayor London Breed announced the new safety measures at a press event at Portsmouth Square in Chinatown on Wednesday.

“In an effort to create a meaningful and sustainable response to protect our residents we’re providing a proactive, culturally competent, community-based response,” Breed said in a statement. She said the efforts are meant to build trust among the diverse communities in the city.

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The safety teams will provide outreach and support along key corridors throughout the city in Chinatown, Inner Richmond, Portola, Visitacion Valley and the Tenderloin. These teams will consist of culturally competent outreach workers who can increase public safety and neighborhood engagement. The city hopes to implement them on the streets come early summer, as an expansion of the existing Street Violence Intervention Program.

The senior escort program, which provides individuals to accompany seniors to medical and personal appointments, will expand to include outreach efforts for AAPI elders who feel unsafe. Breed said the city is working with organizations that represent San Francisco’s AAPI community in these efforts.

More coverage of anti-AAPI violence

This is the latest safety measure from San Francisco aiming to protect the AAPI community. Last week, in a response to the shooting deaths of eight in Atlanta, including six Asian women, Breed announced the San Francisco Police Department would ramp up police patrols in neighborhoods with higher numbers of Asian residents, visitors and businesses.

“Any type of violent crime is horrific, but when people appear to be being targeted because of their race or ethnicity that is unacceptable,” San Francisco Police Department Chief Bill Scott said at a press conference last week.

Still, anti-AAPI attacks have continued in the Bay Area more broadly and in San Francisco. On Monday, a woman was attacked, robbed and dragged by a car at the intersection of Polk and Bush streets in San Francisco's Nob Hill. A video of the incident has been shared widely on social media. According to a report released by Stop AAPI Hate, a project based out of San Francisco State University that asks members of AAPI communities to self-report acts of hate and discrimination, there have been more than 700 anti-Asian hate incidents reported in the Bay Area between March 2020 and February 2021. Stop AAPI Hate reported at least 3,795 incidents of anti-Asian hate across the nation in the same time frame.

One group decided to take matters into their own hands. Forrest Liu created the Chinatown Safety Patrol after he watched a video of an attack on Vicha Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old Thai man who died in January after the attack.

Liu said he’s seen the increased police presence while on patrol with volunteers in Chinatown. He appreciates the officers he’s interacted with because some of them are from the community and speak Chinese.

The Bay Area Responds

“We want people to be out there, and we want people to be aware that they can’t come to Chinatown and get away with this,” he said.

His group has seen a rise in volunteers since last week. Volunteers walk the streets of Chinatown and try to deter any violence that may occur. Liu hopes the mayor’s efforts are a start to finding a long-term solution so the patrol group won’t have to be out on the streets forever.

“The solution to the problem is not very simple, it's not just let's have more police, it's about taking the time to listen and understand the situation, and we’re out there doing that basically every day,” Liu said.

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