Increased police patrols in question

March 6, 2009 2:59:33 PM PST
Houston police say they will start stepping up patrols in an area known as 'Asiatown,' which is essentially centered around the intersection of Beltway 8 and Bellaire Boulevard in west Houston. But there are questions about the reasons why police picked this location for the stepped up patrols. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

Lunchtime just isn't the same these days at Sinh Sinh Restaurant, weeks after the restaurant became part of an ongoing Internet rumor. The rumor, though, is untrue.

Cathy Hang's Sinh Sinh is among a handful of restaurants named in a string of emails, detail how prominent restaurants are being robbed in Asiatown, and officers are getting pistol-whipped. These emails have ricocheted through inboxes in the Asian community, but most of the facts still can't be verified.

Sherwin Sun with the Chinese Community Center explained, "These stories have ballooned from, 'Oh yeah, it was a robbery of two people,' to five people went it, and now it's up all the way to 15 people going in to these restaurants and robbing them."

But the concern over crime is serious enough that area business leaders met to discuss how to tamp down the fear fanned by these emails. At the same time, they also want to increase police presence.

"I feel like maybe where there's smoke, there might be some fire," explained Rogene Gee Calvert with the Houston Mayor's office. "Maybe it's not to the level that some of these emails have been saying, but maybe there are some things going on."

The Houston Police Department is increasing patrols in the Asiatown area. While a visual police presence may help, it's almost impossible to control these rampant rumors on the Internet. That could prove devastating for the hundreds of small businesses that make up Asiatown.

"People are afraid to come down Bellaire," said resident Pierre Nguyen. "So I think it would hurt everybody if they keep spreading the rumor."

The email problem is serious enough that the Sharpstown Management District has sent a letter to the Houston FBI asking officials to help trace the source of the rumors and perhaps put a stop to it.

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