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Anti-Asian hate crime drives spike in number of incidents reported to Dallas police

At a heated town hall meeting in May, Caroline Kim stood in front of city leaders and some of the highest ranking officers at the Dallas Police Department and called on them to do more to keep the Asian American community safe.

Just a few days before, a man who later shared with police investigators that he had racist delusions about Asian Americans, targeted a hair salon in Dallas’ Koreatown, a neighborhood that Kim’s family has contributed to for more than two decades.

“If you are truly representing us in this neighborhood, if you’re truly here to help our safety, we need you to recognize and know the leaders in this community, you need to know who the small business owners are, and you need to ask us if we see something, and you need to help us find resources proactively,” Kim said.

Dallas Police Chief Eddie García initially said no evidence showed that the shooting was a hate crime, a move that caught the ire of many local Asian American community advocates. He reversed course after evidence surfaced that the van used in the shooting matched the description of a suspect vehicle in at least two other incidents.

From left, Dallas police Chief Eddie García speaks during a Dallas Police Department safety town hall meeting alongside Deputy Chief Rick Watson, Myoung-Joon Kim, head of mission at Consular Office of the Republic of Korea in Dallas, Seung Ju Ryou, president of the Korean Society of Dallas, at the Korean Culture Center of Dallas in Dallas, Monday, May 16, 2022. The meeting was in response to a shooting that occurred at Hair World Salon, in which three women of Korean descent were shot.(Elias Valverde II / Staff Photographer)

At the time of the townhall meeting, García recognized the rise in anti-Asian hate incidents reported across the country, but contended that it was too early to say whether the trend had reached North Texas. Recent data from Dallas police, however, showed a dramatic increase in hate crimes.

Kristin Lowman, a Dallas police spokeswoman, said there were 17 total hate crime incidents in 2021 that affected 19 victims, as some incidents have multiple victims. This year so far, there have been 27 incidents and 38 victims linked to hate crimes.

Police say their efforts to educate and improve communication with the community contributed to the increase in reported hate crimes, but they stopped short of recognizing the spike as part of a trend that has been seen across the country in the past two years.

The number is troubling for community members and advocates who have been raising the alarm about anti-Asian hate around the country since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. City leaders are also concerned, and many agree that the solution must go beyond policing.

“Because of the anti-Asian racism that was fueled by the coronavirus pandemic and what happened in Los Angeles and New York, I think the people who harbor similar feelings in Dallas are acting out,” said Jeanne Smith, who is of Korean descent and said the hair salon shooting left her fearful of the neighborhood that she has been involved in for 20 years.

Many people who work in Koreatown are not as alarmed and worried now as they were shortly after the hair salon shooing, but the violence has had a long-term effect on businesses, Smith said.

She said she thinks many of the patrons aren’t returning to Koreatown out of worry for their safety.

“I think we need to find out how to deal with the rising number of hate crimes and incidents. I think Korean community organization leaders have to come up with some plan,” she said.

More recently in September, three Indian American women in Plano were accosted and attacked by a women who was caught spewing racist comments about the South Asian community.

According to Stop AAPI Hate, a California organization tracks the trend, there were more than 11,000 hate incidents reported to the group between March 2020 to 2022. Texas was fourth in the number of incidents, with 446, behind California, New York and Washington, according to a July report from the organization.

Although the number seem to signal a rise in the number of anti-Asian hate crimes, Maj. Stephen Williams from the Dallas Police Department questioned if the trend is occurring in Dallas.

“Is there a true trend? Is this an actual issue, or is it that we’re just getting more community compliance and reporting of crime that’s occurring in those communities so we are able to better understand and identify whether this is a trend?” said Maj. Stephen Williams, who oversees the Dallas Police Department’s Intelligence Division.

A large number of the hate crimes that have been reported this year were tied to the shooting at a Korean hair salon in May, Lowman said.

The Dallas crime statistics dashboard showed the Northwest Division, where Koreatown is located, saw the number of reported possible hate crimes jump from three at this time last year to 20 so far this year.

“Obviously, when you’re looking at the numbers, they’re showing that there is an increase, but you have to go back and look,” Lowman said. “Is this because of a better relationship with this community, or is this an issue that we had before? It’s a matter of looking at the numbers and data and also factoring in what the community tells you.”

Kim told The Dallas Morning News that García’s office reached out to her following the town hall meeting, and in September, the chief met with Kim and visited some of the businesses in the Koreatown area.

Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garc a walks through the city's Koreatown alongside Caroline Kim,...
Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garc a walks through the city’s Koreatown alongside Caroline Kim, whose family has owned and operated a restaurant in the area, on Sept. 29, 2022.(Hojun Choi / Hojun Choi)

“I felt like we had their eyes and ears,” Kim said of the department’s outreach efforts following the shooting. “They were incredibly receptive to feedback about wanting more safely and having an active presence.”

García said the department would designate a neighborhood police officer to the Koreatown area and continue speaking with Korean American community members.

Dallas police’s outreach has helped the Koreatown community better understand the importance of reporting incidents and law enforcement’s role in neighborhood safety, Kim said. Still, she said it is also important to recognize a pattern exists.

“We all recognize that there is an issue here, it’s a growing trend and we have the data now to back it up so that people can come to the table and approach it,” Kim said. “Whether it’s a growing trend in law enforcement’s eyes on if the rise in anti-Asian hate is a growing trend or not, the public perception is that it’s a growing trend.”

Sammie Berry, co-chair of Mayor Eric Johnson’s anti-Hate advisory council, said the group is aware of the rising number of anti-Asian hate incidents around the country. The group, formed in September 2021, will address anti-Asian hate in recommendations it is preparing for Johnson.

“I think it’s unacceptable, in the Asian community or any other community,” Berry said.

Although the council’s mission is to address hate toward all communities, Berry said he thinks it is important to recognize specific problems so they can be adequately addressed by city and law enforcement officials.

Multiple Korean American organizations have been pushing for the stretch of Royal Lane near Interstate-35E to be officially designated as Koreatown. Kim and other community leaders said the designation is important because of the contributions that Korean Americans have made to the city.

“It’s not just about the economic benefits, it’s about showing that Dallas is a diverse, welcoming community,” Kim said.

Dallas resident and Asian American advocate Nancy Tiên said she thinks it is reckless for Dallas police to not recognize the rise in anti-Asian hate incidents in the city despite what the data show.

“It’s just irresponsible to not put two-and-two together,” she said. “It’s a delay of actual action.”

While she said it is critical for police to treat a rising number of anti-Asian hate incidents as a pattern, Tiên said any solution to addressing hate crimes should look beyond law enforcement. Some communities of color don’t trust police, Tiên said, adding different groups should work together to come up with solutions to address anti-Asian hate in the city.

“The police department has access to that data, so it would be helpful if that data is better communicated so that people in the community can mobilize around solutions that look beyond policing as the solution,” Tiên said.

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