Police departments across the US are increasing patrols in Asian communities, but experts say more policing is not the answer

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San Francisco police officer William Ma (L) helps an elderly woman cross the street while on a foot patrol in Chinatown on March 18, 2021 in San Francisco, California. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
  • Police are ramping up their presence in Asian communities after the murders in the Atlanta area.

  • Departments in eight cities made announcements after the shootings that left 6 Asian women dead.

  • But experts have said more policing is not the answer to increased anti-Asian hate.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

In the wake of a string of massage parlor shootings that left eight people dead, including six Asian women, police officers across the country are ramping up their presence in Asian American communities.

Though the assailant told law enforcement his actions were spurred by a sex addiction, there has been fierce pushback against the official narrative of his crime, which activists say police officers accepted and promoted without question.

The violence comes amid a surge of skyrocketing hate incidents committed against Asian Americans in the last year, though experts have emphasized the anti-Asian racism fueled by the coronavirus pandemic is just one more chapter in America's long history of anti-Asian discrimination.

"Attacks and assaults against Asian Americans have been part of American history for over 100 years, Manjusha Kulkarni, executive director of the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council told Insider last month.

Since Tuesday night's murders, at least eight police departments in major cities throughout the US have announced plans to increase patrols in Asian neighborhoods, The New York Times reported Thursday. Police departments in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Houston, Philadelphia, and Fairfax County all made similar announcements promising solidarity with Asian American communities in the days after the attacks.

But even before Tuesday's tragedy, experts were warning that increased policing was not the answer to anti-Asian attacks.

"We know it's not going to go away unless we address the root issues," Russell Jeung, chair of the Asian American Studies Department at San Francisco State University told Insider last month.

As hate incidents against Asian Americans began to spike last year, Kulkarni and Jeung launched the Stop AAPI Hate reporting center to track and respond to incidents of hate, violence, harassment, discrimination, shunning, and bullying against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Since March 2020, the center has received nearly 4,000 reports - which they say is likely just the tip of the iceberg.

Activists and organizers have argued that more policing in marginalized communities is not a long-term solution and could actually do more harm than good.

Many in communities of color are understandably wary of police officers.

A Georgia Sheriff's Captain who was criticized for claiming the suspected Atlanta spa shooter committed his crimes because he had a "very bad day" was linked to an anti-Asian T-shirt on Facebook just hours after speaking at a press conference about the murders.

Instead of more cops, Kulkarni told Insider in a February interview that the next steps to combat Asian American hate need to take place at every level of government: local, state, and national.

While the increasing incidence of physical attacks against Asian Americans is alarming, Jeung said most of Stop AAPI Hate's reported incidents don't actually involve a crime. The majority are cases of verbal harassment on the streets or in businesses.

"We can't rely on law enforcement if very few of these are crimes," Kulkarni said. "When you get discriminated at the pharmacy, it doesn't make sense to call the police."

Instead, Kulkarni and Jeung are advocating for a combination of educational, civil, and community actions.

Anti-racism bullying curriculum and more public education on racism would help promote broader racial empathy and solidarity, Jeung said.

Stop AAPI Hate is also calling for expanded civil rights enforcement. Jeung said updated civil rights codes could be effective in combating intolerance. Community outreach and assistance are essential as well. Stop AAPI Hate has hosted information seminars for members of the Asian American community and the center has deployed multilingual outreach to help mediate incidents of bias.

"We're not trying to punish people or criminalize people," Jeung said. "Restorative justice helps reconcile people, so, we like those approaches that hold people accountable but also help the victims have a voice."

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