San Jose’s Japantown community formally launched citizen foot patrols Monday in hopes of preventing future attacks on Asian Americans.
The first day featured small crews walking the streets but the community response has been huge, meaning hundreds of potential volunteers are waiting to be trained.
The two-person citizen patrols were a modest start to the program launched by Japantown Prepared.
While only a handful of volunteers have been trained by the director, former longtime San Jose police officer Rich Saito said he’s gotten well over 200 emails from potential volunteers.
So, crews are expected to grow into groups of 10-12 working in shifts.
“The training highlighted that it’s not intended that we engage necessarily, depending on where we each are and what the situation that’s happening,” said volunteer Wisa Uemura. “Everything is kind of live experience learning, right? We never know what we’re going to encounter.”
The citizen patrols can also observe and report to San Jose police which has its own separate foot patrols stationed at various Asian centers because of the recent spike in attacks nationwide.
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“We are sensitive to that topic and we just want folks to know that they’re safe and sound out here and that if there are any reports of hate incidents we’ll fully investigate them,” said San Jose Police Department Officer Huy Nguyen.
For volunteers, the need for patrols generated strong emotions.
“It makes us all sad and frustrated at the same time, but Japantown is a community that’s known for taking care of its elders specifically, so this is part of our DNA, it’s who we are,” said volunteer Franco Imperial.
It is a community trait in Japantown. One reason so many people accept and welcome the patrols.
“It’s priceless,” said Jennifer Masuda of the Yu Ai Kai Senior Center. “I really think that just having the foot patrol gives our seniors that sense of security, to know people are out there watching.”