Local leaders on Thursday called on Asian and Pacific Islander San Diegans to speak up against acts targeting their community so that local law enforcement officials can better defend against hate crimes.
"We’re not able to be united if we think of this as just one person’s problem," said San Diego's top prosecutor, District Attorney Summer Stephan, at a symposium to provide safety resources to the AAPI community.
The Public Safety Symposium hosted by the Asian Pacific American Coalition was held in the Convoy District of Kearny Mesa, an area known for its thriving Asian businesses and celebration of Asian culture.
It brought together members of the District Attorney's Office, the San Diego Police Department and elected city officials. Councilmember Chris Cate, who helped organize the event, said the goal was to eliminate any perceived barriers the AAPI community may face in contacting officials to report incidents.
There are planned events across the city. One was recently hosted in Linda Vista and another is coming soon for Mira Mesa.
At the symposium, officials shared tips with the community on how to report acts of violence or hate, which they said was the first step in preventing larger hate crimes against the Asian-American community.
How to Help
“The chief [of police] can only do what he knows about and I recognize for many in our community, it’s hard to come forward and say that something’s happened," said San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria. "As your mayor, I ask you to come forward. Not just to protect yourself and your family but to protect our overall community."
San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit said in the last year, the department has investigated three acts of hate that they were able to send to the District Attorney's office, where felony hate crime charges were filed.
"So far, we’re batting 100," Nisleit said. But the police chief's main concern was that there were many more incidents that could have been investigated but instead went unreported.
"My goal today is to make certain that everyone here today is comfortable coming forward; doesn’t matter how big or small you think the hate crime is, we need to know about it," Nisleit said.
Members of the community believe there are more incidents than are being reported as well.
“I think too many people are staying silent, not being outspoken enough about the hate crimes going on," said Anna Hong, who works at Song Hak Korean BBQ in the Convoy District. "I mean, that’s part of the Asian culture too, to not really speak up, but in this day and age, I definitely think we do and its time that we do."
The chief and district attorney said that tips can be shared with the department in a number of ways: by directly contacting SDPD's community relations officers, by reporting through the DA's online reporting tool, or by calling 911 directly in ongoing situations.
The bottom line: tell someone however you can.
"Understand that haters and abusers that they are cowards and they’re bullies and the only way that you put a bully down is by standing up to that bully and making clear that we are united against hate," Stephan said.
Research released in March 2021 by the group Stop AAPI Hate showed that in the last year there were nearly 3,800 incidents of anti-Asian hate incidents across the country. The same group, who has its own reporting process, recorded 42 anti-Asian incidents in the San Diego area from March to December 2020.
Stephan said since her tip line was created in April 2020, it has received more than 120 tips and each one has received a response. She explained that not every hateful incident can develop into a hate crime that can be prosecuted by her department.
In order for an act to be considered a hate crime, a crime must have been committed and must have been motivated by a person's perceived protected class.
But Stephan said that doesn't mean people shouldn't report.
"Incidents allow these fine officers to investigation and to find out and to try to prevent a hate crime from happening," Stephan said. "That's why we don't want you to become cops or experts yourself and try to figure out if it's a hate incident or a hate crime, we want you to report everything and let us figure it out working together."
Anyone who suspects a hate crime against the Asian-American community, or other frequently targeted communities, can use the San Diego District Attorney's Office online form or hotline to report.
The tool was created, in part, in response to an increase in reports of hate-related incidents directed at Asian-American's DA Summer Stephan said in April 2020. Tips can be made online here or by calling (619) 515-8805.