Oct. 13, 2023 By Iryna Shkurhan
Over a dozen Korean seniors showed up for an evening seminar to learn best practices to avoid falling victim to both anti-Asian hate crimes and “crimes of opportunity” that can happen to anyone.
The Hate Crime and Safety Seminar, in partnership with the Korean American Officer Association, was held on Thursday, Oct. 12, at the Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York Community Center in Bayside.
Detective Hee Jin Park led the safety seminar and showed attendees numerous videos taken from Instagram depicting crimes such as grand larceny, personal theft, credit card fraud and even potential human trafficking schemes. After each one, she emphasized situational awareness and practical safety tips on how protect themselves in Korean, the preferred language of communication for most of the elderly attendees.
One video showed security camera footage of a man posing as a delivery driver and attempting to push his way into a victim’s home. Another showed a restaurant patron peeling a fake QR code sticker deceivingly placed over the restaurant’s menu code. It is a fairly new tactic to steal personal information and commit financial fraud, according to the video.
Officer William Kwok, from the Asian Liaison Immigrant Outreach Unit, honed in on preventing and reporting Anti-Asian hate crimes, which spiked nationally following the pandemic. He also reinforced that generating a sense of awareness when out in public is key to avoiding falling victim to a wide range of crimes.
“A hate crime is just a crime, but they chose you because of who you are,” said Officer Kwon, reinforcing that the same safety tips apply for hate crimes, as one cannot control how someone else acts on their racism and discrimination.
In April 2023, KCS surveyed over a thousand Asian-Americans across the city about their experiences regarding Anti-Asian hate. Their published results revealed that many worry about encountering a hate-related incident, but attitudes on safety in their communities are generally improving.
Officer Kwok, who spoke to attendees in English with a Korean translator, regularly attends community meetings across the city to inform Asian-Americans about hate crime prevention. The goal of these types of seminars is to empower the attendees with the tools and resources they need to stay safe in their communities, without contributing to them living in fear.
“It’s not about the fact that we just taught the 15 to 20 people in there what to do, it’s the fact that they’ll go on to tell 15 to 20 other people and give them that information,” said Officer Kwok. “That’s the criticality of having events such as these.”
An awareness of surroundings is key, especially when walking at night. He suggested that it’s safer to choose more busy streets that are also lit up instead of darker side streets. He also reinforced the importance of not opening your door to strangers who you are not expecting, not carrying large sums of cash and not leaving valuables in your vehicle.
But more importantly, he stressed the importance of reporting all crimes, especially hate crimes. Reporting leads to a more effective distribution on personnel as a deterrence tool, as well as contributing to accurate statistics that can paint the full picture and extent of the issue.
The KCS survey confirmed that hate crimes continue to be “overwhelmingly underreported” with just 8.72% of respondents reporting their experiences.
“The most important thing to help prevent future hate crimes is reporting in the first place,” Officer Kwok said. He also pointed out that the perpetrator of the crime is more likely to commit the same crime again if it goes unreported and they face no consequences.
All attendees walked away with a bag filled with minor safety gadgets, such as a flashlight and mini keychain alarm.