HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- On the surface, it may not seem that Houston has a problem with violence against our Asian American and Pacific Islander community, but local leaders said Wednesday night that even one case is too many.
More than a year after a rash of hate crime incidents unfolded against AAPI people across the U.S., residents are now reeling from the video of a brutal assault involving a Korean store owner in north Houston.
The March 17 attack on Jung Kim at Uptown Beauty Supply No. 10 became the area's first hate crime against the AAPI community in 2021.
"The Korean community is shocked that this happened," said community activist David Shin. "Asian hate is real."
On Wednesday night, Eyewitness News reporter Miya Shay gathered law enforcement and local leaders for a town hall highlighting concerns from the AAPI community, and to get answers to your questions about how to stay safe amid a trend of violence nationally.
"It's a concern not just for the city of Houston, but internationally as well," said Houston Police Department Assistant Chief Ban Tien. "There is a problem. It's on the rise."
While HPD recorded no hate crimes against AAPIs in 2019, the department saw two cases in 2020.
Houston Police Chief Troy Finner hoped to stem fear Wednesday by acknowledging these numbers, but experts caution Houston and other cities could be underreporting crimes against the AAPI community, where some segments of the population, especially Asian immigrants, are less likely to report hate incidents, according to AAPI Data, a California-based policy and research nonprofit.
"They are afraid to speak out, afraid to come forward, even when a hate crime happens against them," said State Rep. Gene Wu, who recently filed HCR 33, condemning racism against the Asian community.
For the first time, HPD has two Asian assistant police chiefs - Tien and Yasar Bashir - an important step in developing closer ties to the community. The department is also working to ensure the police force closely mirrors the neighborhoods it serves.
"The faces of those cadets tell a story," Sikh community activist Bobby Singh said.
Law enforcement and local leaders we spoke with Wednesday night said encouraging victims to report violence and harassment is a priority in the wake of two mass shootings: the March spa shooting in Atlanta that killed eight, including six Asian women, and the Indianapolis, Ind., shooting at a FedEx facility that killed eight, including four people from the Sikh community.
"We want to trust each other and love each other, and when someone becomes the victim of a crime, I want them to report it because it doesn't just impact that individual, it impacts the entire community," Assistant Chief Bashir said.
To report harassment and bullying based on COVID-19 fears, visit aapihatecrimes.org.