Community patrols to hit the streets of San Jose’s Japantown

Community patrols may hit the streets of San Jose’s Japantown as soon as Monday.

An effort to protect the community is being spearheaded by a retired San Jose police officer.

Volunteers have already started training on how to spot and handle suspicious behavior that could turn violent.

As crimes against the AAPI community continue to increase, so do efforts to protect them.

The graphic crime in February when an elderly Asian man was violently shoved to the ground from behind in Oakland is one of several widely reported attacks so disturbing to retired San Jose police officer Richard Saito, he says he felt compelled to do something.

"When I see that on the news, I’ve got to say to myself, what can I do to contribute to the reduction of that," said Saito, who calls himself a public safety volunteer.

His answer was to start community patrols around San Jose’s Japantown.

The retired San Jose cop is a member of the Japantown Community Congress and runs Japantown Prepared, a volunteer group primarily aimed at helping during natural disasters.  He says the group is also concerned about crime.

When he solicited volunteers for citizen foot patrols in Japantown, a flood of interest poured in.

"I had over 100 people register for the training call yesterday, plus 90 people who couldn’t get on because my zoom account was maxed out."

Potentially, as soon as Monday, volunteers will walk the streets looking for suspicious activity, primarily late morning into the afternoon, when most of the elderly are out.

Vests are being ordered for volunteers who will primarily do three things to help deter crime.

"Watch for it, report it to authorities, and then they’re going to be recording it on their cell phones."

Tiffany Luu works at Biscuits Dog Boutique on Jackson Street and says increased violence against Asians has been emotionally exhausting for her and her family.

She says having a community patrol will help relieve some of the fear and tension people are carrying around. 

"The fact that we know there are people there watching over us we can kind of relax a little bit more.  And enjoy our time some more," said Luu.

By summer, Saito hopes the need to patrol these streets will no longer be needed.

He says, by then more people should be vaccinated, restaurants and entertainment venues should be closer to normal operations, and more people should be back at work.

"It will take some of the pressure off of people, so they won’t feel the need to lash out 

at Asians," said Saito.

The San Jose police department issued an email saying it is not involved in or participating in these foot patrols.

But Saito says a division captain has committed to increasing motor patrols in Japantown, which is something he says doesn’t normally happen.