As crimes against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community increase, officials are taking on new strategies in an attempt to stop the violence. A woman was arrested Tuesday after allegedly harassing employees at a New York City nail salon, a person outside, and an undercover Asian officer who intervened. According to The Washington Post, the woman, identified as 50-year-old Sharon Williams, walked into a nail salon in Manhattan’s Chinatown only to harass and threaten Asian workers.
“You brought coronavirus to this country!” the woman yelled, according to police officials. She then left the salon and targeted others on the sidewalk including a bystander who intervened, calling him a “Chinese motherf—er who brought COVID to this country!” Little did she know that the man was not an ordinary bystander, but an undercover NYPD officer.
The officer then called for backup and Williams was arrested and charged with “harassment as a hate crime and aggravated harassment as a hate crime,” officials told the Post.
The arrest follows a spike in hate crimes against Asian Americans, specifically in New York state. According to police statistics, the department has recorded at least 35 anti-Asian attacks so far this year, compared to 28 reported all of last year. Many are believed to stem from coronavirus misinformation and xenophobic language used to describe COVID-19, including the “China virus.”
Data released by Stop AAPI Hate found that almost 3,800 incidents of anti-Asian hate were reported over the past year during the pandemic. The number only accounts for those reported, so the actual number of crimes is expected to be much higher. Additionally, of the 3,800 anti-hate incidents reported, 68% targeted women and 500 occurred in 2021 alone.
But these crimes aren’t limited to verbal and physical abuse. Asian communities have been facing other forms of violence as well, including “shunning” and refusal of service, Stop AAPI Hate reported.
In March, the New York Police Department announced that a special task force in addition to officers going undercover will help identify perpetrators of anti-Asian violence. “The next person you target . . . may be a plainclothes New York City police officer, so think twice,” NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea warned at the time. “We will never tolerate hate or violence of any kind in our great city.” Officers have been deployed in areas with large populations of Asian American community members, including Chinatown.
As a result of this initiative, some racists are facing justice. But while this incident has resulted in an arrest, many other incidents are still being investigated. AAPI community members are fearing for their safety and need support. A number of initiatives including efforts to pay for Uber and Lyft rides for women and the elderly—those most vulnerable to attacks—are in place, but more can be done.
There should be no room for racism in this country. There are multiple ways in which we can support the AAPI community, whether it be checking in on our family and friends, spreading awareness of COVID-19 misconceptions, or contacting members of Congress to do more against anti-Asian hate. Check out this guide on resources and ways to support the AAPI community and our Asian friends.