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San Francisco reports ‘alarming’ increase in anti-Asian hate crimes

The number of reported hate crimes in San Francisco against the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities last year increased more than 500 percent, police officials said Tuesday at a press conference outlining a new annual report on hate crimes.

Police Chief Bill Scott said it was a “challenging year” when it came to hate crimes against the AAPI communities. Hate crimes against the AAPI communities increased from nine in 2020 to 60 last year — a 567 percent increase, he said:

That is significant. That is concerning and that is alarming.”

Scott joined Mayor London Breed in Chinatown on the announcement of disturbing new data from the Police Department. The mayor said she was “heartbroken,” “frustrated” and “embarrassed” on the latest hate crime data:

I’m angry about the violence that has continued to impact many of the people who are part of our Asian community, but especially our seniors.”

Scott said 31 out of 60 incidents were allegedly committed by one person. While the police chief did not name the person, the department pointed to a press release in August of last year where officers arrested 36-year-old Derik Barreto for alleged acts of vandalism against Asian-owned businesses. Police charged Barreto with 31 hate crime enhancements.

Supervisor Gordon Mar, who authored the Crime Victim Data Disclosure Ordinance in 2019, said in a statement:

This astronomical rise in anti-Asian hate crimes vindicates and affirms the long-held feeling in the Asian community that they are being targeted.”

The department also released hate crime data on other groups, including the Black, LGBTQ+ and Jewish communities, which also saw an increase in incidents with each rising at 27 percent, 50 percent and 60 percent from 2020 to 2021.

After the press conference, the mayor announced a request for a budget supplemental total of $22.5 million for the police and fire departments due to a staffing shortage and higher overtime costs. Of the $22.5 million, $7.9 million would go to the Police Department.

According to Breed, the funding is needed to maintain both departments’ ability to address crime, maintain emergency services, and meet other public safety needs.

Currently, police staffing levels are down 20 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels, while staffing levels within the Fire Department are down 16 percent. Remaining department staff are working overtime to fill the void, however, the extra overtime has proved to be a strain on staff and department budgets.

Breed said in a statement:

We have a responsibility to make sure everyone in this city feels safe and that we can deliver the essential emergency services our residents deserve. … Right now, our public safety departments are in a staffing crisis, which requires both immediate solutions like this Public Safety Funding and a long-term commitment to funding and filling academy classes. We need police officers out on the street engaging in community policing and addressing crime, and we need our firefighters and paramedics responding to emergency calls when people are at their most vulnerable.”

Supervisor Catherine Stefani, who co-sponsored the legislation, said:

For more than two years, we’ve known that our patrol staffing levels were severely inadequate, and the situation is only getting worse. We cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the conditions in our city or ignore the thousands of San Franciscans who call 911 in crisis every single day.”

According to City officials, the staffing shortages are a result of retirements, limited hiring over the last few years, and high uses of sick and administrative leave due to Covid-19.

Fire Chief Jeanine Nicholson said:

Like other public agencies across the state, the San Francisco Fire Department has been impacted by Covid-19 in many ways. … The Department has been utilizing contingency plans to sustain operations, however, this has tasked our members with working an unprecedented amount of overtime.”

Police Chief Bill Scott said:

Most major city law enforcement agencies today are grappling with a police staffing crisis that’s a nationwide phenomenon, and the San Francisco Police Department is no exception. … At a time where many police officers hired across our country in the early 1990s are approaching retirement, we’re sadly seeing fewer and fewer people choose a career in the policing profession. It’s a long-term challenge we must all work together to solve, but it starts by meeting our short-term needs.”

The supplemental budget legislation will first need to be heard by the Board of Supervisors’ Budget and Finance Committee before going to the full board for a final vote.

Daniel Montes of Bay City News provided contributed to this report.

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