Santa Ana police will now post hate crime data to website

A candlelight vigil at Community Center Park in Garden Grove on March 23, 2021.
Local residents came out to a candlelight vigil to stop Asian hate in Garden Grove on March 23.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

Santa Ana police will now post monthly reports of hate crime data to the department’s website after the City Council showed unanimous support for the proposal at a Tuesday night meeting.

The item was brought forward by council members Thai Viet Phan, the first Vietnamese American woman elected to the council, and Phil Bacerra as the country reckons with increased reports of rising racism and violence against Asian Americans.

The item did not require a vote. Council members expressed their support and City Manager Kristine Ridge and Police Chief David Valentin indicated at the meeting that the data would be put online.

“We need to know what’s going on so that we can address it, so we can look at what we need in our police departments so that people feel comfortable discussing this with our law enforcement,” Phan said. “Is it because we need to hire more officers who speak Vietnamese in the community or speak Chinese? What do we need?”

Bacerra echoed Phan’s comments.

“In addressing a problem, the first thing you have to do is assess it and diagnose it,” Bacerra said. “And I think what’s appropriate here is because as we’re talking about hate crimes against the Asian community, I think it’s very important that we understand how many hate crimes are being committed here in our city. We don’t get that data as instantaneously as we should or as we would like.”

In response to reports of increased racism and violence against Asian Americans throughout the country, 20 Orange County businesses have decided to donate to various local and national groups that advocate for the Asian American and Pacific Islander population.

Also on Tuesday night, the council unanimously approved a resolution condemning racism and hate against Asian Americans. The item was requested by Phan, and she assisted city staff in developing the resolution. Bacerra also worked on the resolution.

“I personally have experienced racism and xenophobia growing up here in Santa Ana,” Phan said at the meeting, pointing out that about 40,000 people in Santa Ana are Asian American or Pacific Islander.

”So we can’t think that xenophobia is only happening in other cities, in south county or in other states, it’s happening here at home. And we really have to reconcile that with the fact that even though I speak English, even though I’m a council member, I was a victim of racism even during the campaign.”

Phan and Bacerra spoke about the city’s racist past, referencing how Santa Ana once had a Chinatown more than a century ago.

Asian residents were treated with derision by racist community members and city officials until the Chinatown was deliberately burned down.

“Our city, like our country, hasn’t always respected and treated our Asian brothers and sisters with the respect they deserve,” Bacerra said. “But as history has shown, our city’s evolved and has made great strides and progress towards standing against racism in all its forms. Today with this resolution, we’re standing with our AAPI community because of the increase in hate crimes that we’re witnessing throughout the country that have been committed.”

Mayor Vicente Sarmiento said that while he agreed with the resolution, he hopes the council will do more to advance the ideas the resolution espouses.

He said that the council has to right the wrongs of Santa Ana’s racist past, specifically pointing out that Little Saigon was born in Santa Ana, yet the community has left the area.

“I just briefly want to say, obviously all of us are in support of this,” Sarmiento said. “To me a resolution just doesn’t seem strong enough. I support it but I almost think is it a hollow gesture because it’s a nonbinding, intent document. And I know all of us feel so strongly about this issue.

“We have to ask ourselves, why has Little Saigon moved west, away from Santa Ana? There is an economic nexus we have to figure out. Why is the community moving away from us rather than becoming more embedded in Santa Ana? That is something that is very tangible, that is something quantifiable, that I think we can tackle.”

Support our coverage by becoming a digital subscriber.