A new report showing a dramatic increase in hate crimes targeting Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) last year in San Francisco confirmed the concerns of many in the community and led Mayor London Breed and the city's police chief on Tuesday to sound the alarm on the crisis.
Law enforcement received 60 reports of hate crimes against AAPI people in the city during 2021, said Police Chief Bill Scott, who noted that this figure represented a 500% increase compared to the nine incidents reported in 2020.
“That is significant, that is concerning and that is alarming,” Scott said at a news conference in Chinatown. He announced that the department would have a presence at next week's Lunar New Year celebration and he advised the community to remain vigilant.
While the 60 incidents in 2021 represented a huge jump from the crimes reported during the first year of the pandemic, 31 of the crimes were allegedly committed by just one man, Derik Barreto, who police accused of targeting Asian-owned businesses for vandalism. However, even without accounting for those crimes the rate of anti-AAPI attacks would still represent a 200% increase. Several other high-profile violent incidents were categorized as anti-AAPI hate crimes, including robberies and assaults targeting women.
Other groups also saw noticeable shifts in hate crime trends in 2021. Anti-Black, anti-Jewish and anti-LGBTQ+ incidents each rose 27%, 60% and 50%, respectively.
Scott said he’s unclear about his department’s cases leading to charges and jail time for suspects—District Attorney Chesa Boudin was notably absent from the event—but the chief emphasized police are stepping up their efforts.
“If anybody thinks that San Francisco is an easy place to come in and terrorize our Asian communities, you are sadly mistaken—and you will be held accountable,” Scott said.
Mayor Breed, who participated in the news conference and later announced she was requesting a $22.5 million allocation boost in public safety funding to overcome staffing shortages, said she was “heartbroken” by the rise in anti-AAPI hate crimes across the city.
“I’m frustrated. I am embarrassed. I am angry about the violence that has continued to impact many of the people who are part of Asian communities,” Breed said.
The District Attorney’s Office issued a statement Tuesday noting that it has made strides in supporting Asian American hate crime victims, including expanding language access for the community and forming an AAPI Elder Abuse Steering Committee. The office also noted that the DA filed hate crime charges in 20 cases in 2021.
“DA Boudin has consistently sought additional funding to support victims,” the office said in a statement. “We will not stop fighting to ensure that every victim’s needs are met.”
Gordon Mar, the San Francisco supervisor who authored the Crime Victim Data Disclosure Ordinance law in 2019, called the rise in attacks on the AAPI community a “crisis.”
“This astronomical rise in anti-Asian hate crimes vindicates and affirms the long-held feeling in the Asian community that they are being targeted,” Mar said, adding that he has formed a “comprehensive” violence prevention and victim support plan.
The mayor and police chief’s news conference on anti-AAPI hate crimes was the second scheduled Tuesday in Chinatown. A half-hour earlier a Vietnamese American man and his legal team announced they were filing a lawsuit against the District Attorney’s Office for its handling of anti-Asian hate crimes.
Han Li can be reached at [email protected]