By Ali Bauman

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There has been a disturbing spike in hate crimes against Asian Americans nationwide and here in New York.

CBS2’s Ali Bauman spoke with the head of the NYPD‘s anti-Asian hate crimes task force about the causes and solutions.

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The task force is made up of 25 Asian-American detectives who together speak over 11 different languages. Their job is not only to investigate hate crimes but also to help bridge the gap between victims and police.

Deputy Inspector Stewart Loo, the commanding officer, says this is important because in order to resolve the rise in hate crimes, we must first understand the full scope.

Loo helped form the agency last spring in response to a surge in attacks on Asian Americans during the pandemic.

“We were blamed for the virus, and because of such, we were targeted for a lot of crimes,” Loo said.

NYPD data shows at least 22 anti-Asian hate crimes so far this year, up from zero reported in the same period last year.

“Yes, there’s an uptick, there’s a surge. It’s not something that’s new,” Loo said. “I think the main reason why we’re seeing these numbers go up is because the awareness.”

Loo says crimes against Asian Americans have long been underreported.

“It’s a very daunting task for them, especially when they don’t speak the language … A lot of them fear retaliation,” he said.

“How do you go about encouraging people to come forward?” Bauman asked.

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“Getting the word out there that this is becoming a problem, that goes a long way in education,” Loo said.

As an Asian New Yorker, a husband and a father, this crisis is deeply personal for Loo.

“My wife is afraid to leave the house. She doesn’t wanna go in the subways. She doesn’t wanna walk in the street. If she has to, she would wear her mask and put a hoodie over her face just so nobody would see that she’s Asian,” he said.

“What would you tell some of the other New Yorkers who, like your wife, are afraid to walk around alone in the city right now?” Bauman asked.

“That’s a tough question. I got to deal with that stuff every day,” Loo said. “If you could travel with a buddy, in pairs or in a group, it would help mitigate being the victim of a crime.”

So how can we help our Asian community?

“I speak to a lot of my victims,” Loo said. “What they tell me is, ‘I’m being attacked. I’m verbally being assaulted, and the worst thing is that there’s so many people around and they’re not doing anything’ … I would say any kind of intervention, any kind of words of comfort helps in that situation.”

Loo believes numbers will continue to rise before things get better.

“Because the unreported crimes will be reported. Once they’re reported, we can figure out what the real problem is, and then once we have the problem, we can come up with a solution,” he said.

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Loo says hate crimes can also be undercounted because detectives need to prove the motive, which he says can be difficult if, for example, words were not exchanged during an attack.

Ali Bauman