San Francisco Police Data Show Anti-Asian Hate Crimes Jumped an Alarming 567% in 2021

At least 60 instances of Anti-AAPI bias crimes were committed in 2021, according to preliminary data, but officials suspect the real number is higher

San Francisco Anti-Asian American hate march and rally
Photo: Ray Chavez/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

In 2020, fewer than a dozen bias-related crimes were reported in San Francisco, but a troubling string of violence and vandalism against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders has amplified that number by 567%, according to preliminary police data released Tuesday.

Joined by San Francisco Police leadership and community partners, S.F. Mayor London Breed revealed in a media briefing that about 60 hate crimes against members of the AAPI community occurred in 2021 compared to eight the year prior.

Those figures, however, are likely an undercount, Breed added. Final determinations on the data count for hate crime reporting are made by the California Department of Justice.

"Although a number of communities have been impacted with hate crimes in San Francisco, none more than the AAPI community," she said Tuesday. "We want to make sure people feel safe, we want to make sure they feel comfortable with reporting."

In a city of nearly 1 million people, just one person was responsible for more than half of the anti-AAPI bias crimes reported last year, San Francisco Police Chief William Scott said at the briefing. Police arrested and charged a man in August who was allegedly linked to 31 counts of burglary and vandalism, all with added hate crime enhancement due to the fact that they were acted out against members of the AAPI community.

Sarah Wan, executive director of the Community Youth Center in San Francisco, said at the press conference that her organization served 70 victims of hate crimes, many of which suffered burglary, assaults and armed robbery.

"A lot of these victims are monolingual and really do not know how to seek help," Wan told reporters Tuesday.

The stark increase has instilled fear in San Francisco's diverse Asian communities, and the figures reflect a larger national trend of high-profile instances of anti-AAPI bias that took place in 2021, particularly against elderly individuals. In March 2021, a gunman's rampage at several Atlanta massage parlors left eight people dead, six of them Asian American women.

As Atlanta reeled from the massacre, San Francisco's anti-AAPI bias crime rate continued to escalate beyond that of any other demographic. Two Asian American seniors were stabbed at a bus stop on Market Street last May, and in September, police arrested an individual and charged him in a series of seven robberies in Bayview and Ingleside, all targeting Asian women.

The succession of violent attacks prompted President Joe Biden to sign the COVID-19 Hate Crime Act, legislation aiming to address "hate crimes throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with particular emphasis on the increase in violence against Asian Americans."

Some experts pin the rise in anti-AAPI hate crimes on the pandemic, citing racist misinformation surrounding the virus, which was frequently referred to as "the Chinese virus" by President Donald Trump and his allies. The nonprofit Stop AAPI Hate compiled data from March 2020 to June 2021 showing an increase in incidents nationally.

The number of hate incidents reported to Stop AAPI Hate jumped from 6,603 to 9,081 during April to June 2021. Overall, more than 4,500 hate incidents occurred in 2020 and 4,533 in 2021, the organization reported.

Physical assaults on the AAPI community increased from 10.8% of the total hate incidents in 2020 to 16.6% in 2021, according to Stop AAPI Hate. Vandalism increased from 2.6% in 2020 to 4.9% in 2021, and more than half (63%) of victims were women.

Officials in San Francisco highlighted steps being taken to address and prevent the rise in hate crimes, including expanding the SFPD hate crime tip line to nine languages. Scott added that the department and city have partnered with several community-based organizations to improve community engagement, police response and the ability of community members to report crime.

"If anybody thinks SF is an easy place to come in and terrorize our Asian communities, you're sadly mistaken, and you will be held accountable," Scott told reporters. "You will be arrested, and you will be charged."

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