A surge in anti-Asian hate crimes in the United States sparked by the coronavirus pandemic last year has continued into 2021, police department data show.
Fifteen of America’s largest cities reported a 169% increase in violence aimed at Asian Americans during the first quarter of this year compared to the same period last year.
The dramatic increase follows a spike of nearly 150% last year on an annualized basis and comes as the administration of President Joe Biden has prioritized combating attacks on Asian Americans, while the U.S. House of Representatives moves to pass legislation that would create a new Justice Department position dedicated to the problem.
In New York, Los Angeles and 13 other cities, police investigated a total of 86 attacks on Asian Americans during the first quarter of this year, up from 32 during the first quarter of 2020, according to an analysis of official preliminary data provided to VOA by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.
The university study was based on reporting by individual city police departments and covered about 8% of the U.S. population living in the 15 cities. The same study found that anti-Asian hate crime had increased by 146% when it looked at 26 of America’s largest cities and counties.
The FBI, which has the only data for the United States as a whole, found that the same 15 cities accounted for more than 20% of all hate crimes in 2019, the last year for which it has made data available.
This year, New York, which has the highest number of Asian Americans in the country, accounted for nearly half the 2021 incidents, reporting 42 incidents through the first quarter, a 223% increase from 13 incidents during the first quarter of last year. The attacks on Asians have continued into April, with another 24 incidents reported in the first three weeks of the month.
In the latest assault on an Asian American in New York, an unemployed 61-year-old Chinese immigrant collecting bottles in the Harlem neighborhood was sent into a coma last Friday after being severely beaten by an ex-felon on parole. The suspect was arrested this week.
New York appears to have seen more attacks on Asians during the first quarter of 2021 than during any full year in recent memory, according to Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.
“New York City has been particularly hard hit as the city grapples with a record-setting first quarter in 2021 that has already exceeded last year’s annual record of anti-Asian hate crime,” Levin said.
The attacks on Asians are likely to continue as the weather warms and COVID-19-related social distancing rules ease, increasing public congregations, Levin said.
Other cities with large Asian populations also saw double- and triple-digit increases in violence.
In San Francisco, police investigated 12 assaults on Asians, up 140% from five incidents during the first quarter of 2020. In Los Angeles, there were nine anti-Asian hate crimes during the quarter, up 80%, while in Boston, the number of incidents targeting Asians jumped to eight, up 60%.
Lu-In Wang, a University of Pittsburgh law professor and author of the book “Discrimination By Default: How Racism Becomes Routine,” said the increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in New York and other cities with large Asian populations is surprising because these are cities where “they (Asians) would feel more comfortable, would feel more that they belong.”
“But it could be that there is greater resentment of Asians in those cities because they are more visible and more numerous,” Wang said in an interview.
Of the 15 cities surveyed, four — Cleveland, Philadelphia, Tampa and Miami — reported no anti-Asian hate crimes during the quarter.
Washington and San Antonio, Texas, reported six and five anti-Asian hate crimes, respectively, compared with zero during the first quarter of 2020.