NYPD Asian Hate Crimes Task Force chief fears attacks are 'new normal'

NEW YORK (WABC) -- From the heinous hate-fueled attack in Hell's Kitchen to the man knocked out unconscious on the subway by a man hurling anti-Asian slurs, it seems like the rise in hate crimes is never ending.

But is this a spike? Or is it something else?

"Crimes against Asians in general has been happening for quite some time," said NYPD Inspector Tommy Ng, the new commanding officer of the NYPD's Asian Hate Crimes Task Force.

According to police, so far this year, there have been 36 anti-Asian hate crimes motivated by the victim's race.

Three other crimes were motivated by COVID-19, with an Asian victim, police said, to bring the total to 39 -- compared to 29 through all of 2020.

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Inspector Ng thinks the true number is even higher, but still, he says don't call it a spike.

Decades ago, he responded to a robbery inside a Chinese restaurant.

"We saw the victim who was still on the phone taking delivery orders while her head was still bleeding profusely," he said. "That's one of those incidents I'll never forget. She didn't want to come forward initially. When we interacted with her, she said this happens all the time...When we asked her about how come you don't report it, she just said it's part of the business."

Historically, such crimes are difficult to accurately track.

"Whether there's a surge in hate crimes is unclear, because hate crimes are underreported," said Professor Russell Jeung, of San Francisco State University.

Jeung is the co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate, which has been tracking incidents nationwide since the start of the pandemic.

He thinks there is a spike, but it's impossible to quantify by how much because there is no accurate baseline.

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He says there's a surge in "racism," but that's separate from the higher number of hate crimes now being reported.

"I say there's two trends," he said. "We've always experienced violence for those of us who live in urban areas, and so that's been consistent. And then there's last year's trend of pandemic racism."

And it extends beyond out and out violence.

"We are now tracking coughing and spitting incidents that make up 7% of our cases," Jeung said. "I don't think people were coughing and spitting on their fellow humans in 2019."

Inspector Ng says what's really happening is that more victims are now coming forward. And he understands why they've been reluctant in the past.

He was robbed when he was a new immigrant teenager making food deliveries, but he never reported it to police.

"I didn't want to be bothered," he said. "Secondly, I didn't speak the language."

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Today, he says there are more second generation Asian American New Yorkers and less language barriers, and even among the immigrant population, many of them now have American born children.

So when asked if or when the wave of attacks against Asian Americans will subside, he says this is the new normal.

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