Task Force Prosecutes Highest Amount of Anti-Asian Crimes Since Inception

In New York, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said his office's Hate Crimes Unit is prosecuting more hate crimes involving anti-Asian incidents than it has since the task force launched more than a decade ago.

Bragg's announcement came as the prosecutor introduced murder charges against an individual who allegedly attacked a man in East Harlem last spring "for no other reason than his race," causing injuries that ultimately resulted in the man's death. Anti-Asian hate crimes have been on the rise since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, with the Stop AAPI Hate coalition reporting more than 10,300 hate crime incidents nationwide between March 2020 and last September.

Russell Jeung, a co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate and a professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University, told Newsweek the coalition is "not surprised" of the rise in hate crimes currently being prosecuted.

"We're not surprised that racism has increased, because we found one in five Asian Americans experienced direct racism these past two years," Jeung said. "In that context, not only has there been a surge in racism, but Asian Americans have really stepped up to address it, and they're reporting more, both to us at Stop AAPI Hate and to police."

Anti-Asian hate crimes Manhattan
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said this week his office is currently prosecuting 33 hate crime cases involving anti-Asian incidents. Above, people participate in a protest to demand an end to anti-Asian violence on April 4, 2021, in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The man who died of the injuries he incurred in New York City last spring has been identified as Yao Pan Ma, a 61-year-old father with two children. Ma's alleged attacker was identified as 50-year-old Jarrod Powell, who has been charged with second degree murder as a hate crime for allegedly knocking Ma to the ground before stomping on and kicking his head. Ma was placed on life support for treatment of his injuries but ultimately died on December 31, according to Bragg's office.

Bragg noted in a Thursday press release that Ma died "amidst a surge of anti-Asian attacks targeting our families, friends, neighbors, and New York values."

"Tragically, our Office is currently prosecuting 33 hate crime cases driven by anti-Asian bias—unfortunately, the most we have had since our Hate Crimes Unit was established in 2010," Bragg said. "Now, more than ever, it is essential that we, as prosecutors and as New Yorkers, remain vigilant and forcefully reject bias-fueled crimes in our communities."

Jeung said his coalition has found anti-Asian racism to be "extensive and pervasive," and not always occurring in forms that can be charged as crimes. Focusing on hate crimes alone can be "limiting and narrow," Jeung said, and "doesn't really get to the root of the problem."

"What we're trying to do, then, is to get to the root of the problem by promoting education, ethnic studies, by expanding our civil rights," he said.

"Policing really isn't the answer. It just leads to more mass incarceration, and what we need is more community-based efforts to address this racism that gets at its source," Jeung added. "Hate crimes address racism at the tail end after it's occurred, and we want to prevent it at its source."