Personal Safety Alarms, Trainings Aim To Give Asian Residents Tools To Protect Themselves As Attacks Rise

Credit: ColinBoyle/Block Club Chicago. People walk through Chinatown Square on a summer day in Chinatown on July 15, 2021.


CHICAGO — Advocacy groups are offering Asian Chicagoans personal safety alarms and defense training amid a continued surge in anti-Asian hate crimes.

The Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community is providing more than 400 handheld safety alarms to Asian Chicagoans, giving them out at events and at tables set up in the community, said advocacy manager Vivian Zhang.

Many of the people taking advantage of the offer are older and use public transit or walk, Zhang said. People can pull a pin on the alarm so it makes a loud sound in a bid to scare away an attacker or alert others the user needs help.

The initiative comes as anti-Asian hate crimes in Chicago have risen during the COVID-19 pandemic, from two in 2020 to nine in 2021 and eight in 2022, according to police data. Similar upticks have been seen throughout the country.

Credit: Personal safety alarms. Colin Boyle/Block Club ChicagoA video last month showed two people attacking and robbing an older Asian man as he rode the Red Line. The fatal shooting of Woom Sing Tse, 71, in Chinatown in December sparked calls for more cameras, lights and longer-term violence prevention efforts in the neighborhood.

About 7 percent of Chicagoans are Asian, according to the Sun-Times.

Chicago has a large population of Asian Americans — but they don’t account for as much of the overall population as some coastal cities. That means hate crimes can fly under the radar and may be underreported, said Andrea Chu, the Midwest organizing manager at Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

“This violence against our communities is not over, and I don’t think it’ll be over anytime soon,” Chu said. “When you look at Islamophobia after 9/11, that violence didn’t go away. There’s a real impact on public safety from the anti-Chinese rhetoric from politicians, in terms of COVID and economic competition, that continues to take a toll.”

Asian Americans Advancing Justice hosts bystander intervention trainings over Zoom to prepare people if they witness a hate crime, Chu said. Local community groups are also doing outreach to Asian-American residents to encourage them to report hate crimes and are partnering with police to serve as translators during home visits, said Grace Chan McKibben, executive director of the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community.

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