AAPI hate crimes up 500% last year; one person responsible for half the cases, SFPD says

Hate crimes against the AAPI community in San Francisco rose more than 500% last year, according to Police Chief Bill Scott.

Scott spoke at a media conference Tuesday where he released the preliminary statistics. Scott said there was a 567% rise in hate crimes in 2021 compared to the previous year.

"We had eight [hate crimes] in 2019, we had nine in 2020, and we had 60 in 2021," he said. "That is significant. That is concerning."

Scott noted the department has made arrests in the majority of those cases, including one person who was arrested in the Taraval neighborhood. That person was linked to and charged with 31 hate crimes, roughly half of last year's cases.

"We want the message to be loud and clear to everyone that we won’t tolerate it," Scott said. "We’re going to do something about it if it does happen. We’re going to do everything we can to prevent it from happening."

The announcement of the dramatic rise in crimes comes as the city preparing for the Lunar New Year celebrations.

In Chinatown, Tane Chan has spent 53 years as owner of The Wok Shop on Grant Street. She said she knows crimes against the AAPI community are on the rise, but she feels safe.

"I’m here in Chinatown daily, every day 24/7 just about, and I have not encountered any of that hate crime on this street," she said. "We have a wonderful police force here and you can see them. They’re very visible."

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Scott advises people to be aware of scams and to avoid people on the street asking for money or jewelry. He also reminded people to use whistles to draw attention to themselves if they are targeted by criminals because the attention by witnesses increases the likelihood that the crimes can be solved.

Harlan Wong, Director of the Chinese New Year Parade and Celebration, said the increased crime against the AAPI community is sad, but said the community is vigilant.

He said despite the omicron variant, the parade will go forward and be held in-person for the first time since 2020.

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"We want to make a big comeback," Wong said. "We want it to be a roaring success and for the first time we’re going to be have fireworks at Union Square."

The Lunar New Year will be celebrating the Year of the Tiger, which represents courage, strength, and resilience. He and others said they hope the year brings joy and peace.