Attacks against Asian American New Yorkers rarely end in guilty verdicts, report finds
Advocates urged more reporting of hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in New York City, as a report released Tuesday found that few attacks on these groups last year ended in guilty dispositions for alleged perpetrators.
The Asian American Bar Association of New York unveiled its second report on surges in attacks across the boroughs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first report, published in February 2021, called for greater reporting of hate incidents in what it called a “rising tide” of anti-Asian attacks. The report released Tuesday was titled “Endless Tide.”
The report, released on the last day of AAPI Heritage Month, examined what happened when hate incidents were reported to law enforcement, and how difficult such cases have been to prosecute.
“We want to encourage people to report,” said Chris Kwok, a board member of the Asian American Bar Association of New York and a report executive editor, in a phone interview. “But the question is turning the ball back to them. Once it’s reported, what happens? How do you deal with it?”
The report comes after the deaths of three Asian women — Michelle Go, Christina Yuna Lee and GuiYing Ma — in the first two months of 2022 in New York City. In March, video captured the brutal beating of a 67-year-old Filipina woman in the foyer of her Yonkers apartment building by a 42-year-old man who has been charged with a hate crime.
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What were the report's findings?
In the first three quarters of 2021, the report documented 233 incidents against Asian New Yorkers. Nearly 60% were assault, 20% were physical harassment, 8% were verbal harassment, 7% were criminal mischief or property damage, and 4% were thefts. There were three homicides and two sex offenses.
Of those 233 incidents, 91 led to arrests and 41 were charged as hate crimes. But just 7 led to guilty dispositions of hate crimes. Twenty cases are still pending as of April.
This number differed with the New York Police Department’s count of 117 anti-Asian hate incidents during the same period, between January and September.
Elaine Chiu, a law professor St. John’s University and a report executive editor, noted a drop in press and government attention to attacks against AAPI people, particularly after the killing of six Asian women in Atlanta in March 2021, which was followed by activism with national movement "Stop Asian Hate," and a spotlight on the community during last year's AAPI Heritage Month in May.
“By the end of the year 2021, our conclusions were that the steps that were taken to address the hate and violence against AAPI Americans, simply not enough has been done,” Chiu told reporters.
Researchers identified incidents by press coverage as well as records from the NYPD and the state courts system.
They defined “anti-Asian incidents” as attacks — whether physical or verbal — against someone who is Asian or appeared to be of Asian descent, and where there was concern that the act of crime upon the person was racially motivated.
Nearly 60% of incidents occurred in Manhattan, the most of any borough. Across all police precincts, the Midtown-South area containing Times Square had the highest number of incidents. In the timeframe studied, nearly half occurred in March and April.
Victims tended to be women; more than 59% of all victims were between the ages of 20 to 49. Meanwhile, about four out of five perpetrators were men, and half were between the ages of 30 to 49.
Stop AAPI Hate, a reporting database affiliated with San Francisco State University that tracks incidents against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, saw 6,273 incidents in 2021, compared to 4,632 from March 2020 through the end of that year.
The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, part of California State University, San Bernardino, saw nearly a 200% increase in hate crimes nationwide in the first quarter of 2021. In New York City, there was a 262% increase, with comparable jumps in San Jose and San Francisco.
Researchers noted a variety of factors that spurred the attacks, which range from a history of racism against AAPI communities dating back centuries, to rhetoric from the Trump administration that connected Asian Americans or China with the coronavirus during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Officials also pointed to mental illness among suspects, though the report said there isn’t enough data to analyze the correlation between mental health and violence against AAPI communities.
“As we say all too many times in this country, this is not us. But unfortunately, we are seeing that actually it is, sadly, many of us,” said Loretta Lynch, the former U.S. attorney general in the Obama administration and a partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, a New York law firm that has represented victims in anti-Asian incidents. “Unfortunately, we have seen this rising tide of fear and hatred that believes that recognizing someone else's humanity somehow lessens their own.”
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What solutions were proposed?
The report issued nine recommendations that included the need to improve law enforcement agencies' data reporting on hate incidents by making the data publicly accessible and following an incident from its occurrence to its resolution.
The report recommended amending New York's hate crimes law to encapsulate more incidents by classifying something as a hate crime if it was based “in whole or in part” on a person’s protected characteristic.
Additionally, it called for reclassifying aggravated harassment that involve bias or hate speech into the hate crimes law; out of 488 hate crimes reported to law enforcement in New York State, the report said, nearly 45% were harassment crimes, which is currently excluded from the law.
The report also said officials should restructure the state’s bail reform laws to provide bail for suspects charged in hate crime cases. Meanwhile, the report supported Gov. Kathy Hochul’s recent bail reform changes, which allowed for bail to be set for more hate crimes, repeat offenses and gun offenses.
"Oftentimes, we’re left trying to put as many Band-Aids in the interim so people would stop hating on Asian Americans or hurting our communities,” said Assemblymember Ron Kim, a Democrat who represents parts of Queens.
He added there need to be “uncomfortable discussions” around economic justice for communities of color and immigrants. During economic or health downturns, Kim said, AAPI communities often get pitted against Black and brown communities.
Sen. John Liu, a Queens Democrat, pointed to the COVID-19 crisis as “yet another example of Asian Americans being scapegoated for something gone wrong in our country.”
In the press conference, Eva Zhao, 38, spoke about the recent killing of her husband, Zhiwen Yan, 45. The Queens couple have three children.
At night on April 30, Yan, a delivery worker, was shot while he was getting on his scooter in the Forest Hills neighborhood of Queens.
No arrests have yet been made.
“I want justice for my husband’s murder,” she said through an interpreter. “I really don’t want to see another family go through this same kind of pain.”
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Eduardo Cuevas covers diversity, equity and inclusion in Westchester and Rockland counties. He can be reached at EMCuevas1@lohud.com and followed on Twitter @eduardomcuevas.
This article originally appeared on New York State Team: Attacks against Asian American New Yorkers rarely have guilty verdicts