As officials and activist groups across the country call for an end to attacks on Asian Americans, Irvine police are introducing a new online portal for people to report hate crimes and incidents.
It is part of a larger effort by the police and the city to eradicate racism and bias and be more inclusive. Irvine Police Chief Mike Hamel announced the reporting tool at a press conference held at the Irvine Civic Center on Friday March 19.
City leaders such as Mayor Farrah Khan, representatives from Asian-American organizations and several residents also shared their experiences and their goal of ending racism.
Thomas Song, far left, Myung Shuh, and Korean American Federation President Steve Kwon listen to city guides and community members as they share their experiences of anti-Asian discrimination. (Photo by Karen Tapia, Contributing Photographer)
Orange County has the third largest population of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the nation, and Irvine is home to the largest concentration of these residents in the county, said Mary Ann Foo, executive director of the Orange County’s Asian and Pacific Islanders Community Alliance.
Her group receives daily calls from people in the county concerned about the rise in hate crimes and fears for their safety. She added: “We must condemn and proclaim racism and xenophobia.”
In an interview before the press conference, Hamel said the police department has always encouraged people to report potential hate crimes and the new online portal is another way to do so. It can be found on the department’s website.
“This allows local residents who may not be comfortable contacting the police to file a hate crime report or incident online,” and they can do so anonymously if they prefer, he said. “This is not intended to replace an officer answering personally. We still want people to call and we’ll get out. “
Irvine Police Department received reports of 22 hate crimes in the past five years, with most – seven per year – occurring in 2019 and 2020, according to Hamel statistics.
Hate incidents, in which someone could use racist slurs or other acts not classified as non-criminal, have increased in recent years. Five incidents were reported to the police in 2018, eleven incidents in 2019 and 18 incidents last year.
Hamel said that hate crimes and incidents in general are not adequately reported and the portal should help resolve this.
“We hope this will improve our reporting and give us the opportunity to respond appropriately and investigate these very worrying cases,” he said.
Currently, 74 of the department’s 220 sworn officers are of ethnic backgrounds other than white, with those with Hispanic and Asian heritage making up the largest proportion. Hamel said the department welcomes applicants who mirror the Irvine Township Police Department and, for the first time, the department is promoting in Mandarin, Korean, Persian and Spanish to reach out to a wider range of potential candidates.
To step up anti-discrimination efforts at City Hall, the Irvine City Council recently set up a Diversity, Justice and Inclusion Committee to look at existing policies and practices and potentially suggest ways to improve justice for all.