San Francisco police look to strengthen ties with Chinatown community

San Francisco police were out in force Wednesday night to build community ties with the city's Chinese American community.

The department and the community celebrated the 7th annual Chinatown Night Out.

The celebration was an opportunity for police and the community to come together to build relationships before a crisis occurs.

The San Francisco Police Department’s Central Station hosted the event in the city's Portsmouth Square Park, the heart of Chinatown.

While the celebration was complete with free food and music, the aim was to build and strengthen community relations between the city's Chinese language-speaking population and the police department.

William Ma, one of the city's multilingual officers who walk a foot beat in Chinatown, said the occasion was also an opportunity for community members to discuss issues, such as scams or violence toward Chinese speakers.

Ma says language can be a barrier, so having officers who speak the language opens new avenues for information to flow both ways. Tips from the police to help protect the community, and tips from the community to catch criminals.

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"A lot of it is the community working with the police saying, 'Hey, this something you want to check out,'" Officer Ma said. "Then we investigate a little further and that really goes to show the level of trust between the community and police."

Chinatown Night Out is modeled after National Night Out, which San Francisco police say has a proven track record for improving community relations.