Crime - Sacto 911

Police, citizen patrol group both claim credit for south Sacramento crime decrease

Executive Director Stephanie Nguyen of Asian Resources Community Services talks on Sept. 7, 2016, about the growing number of crimes against the Asian community in south Sacramento, Calif.
Executive Director Stephanie Nguyen of Asian Resources Community Services talks on Sept. 7, 2016, about the growing number of crimes against the Asian community in south Sacramento, Calif. pkitagaki@sacbee.com

Sacramento police say a concerted effort to stem a crime wave targeting Asian Americans in south Sacramento has paid off, noting a 43 percent decrease in robberies over the last month.

The announcement Thursday of the dramatic downtick in crime comes after hundreds of Asian American residents showed up in force during a community meeting last month to chastise police for not responding aggressively enough.

The Sacramento Police Department has increased patrols in the crime-plagued areas, and officials said 20 people have been arrested in robberies so far. Investigators said the suspects did not appear to be connected, though they used similar tactics, according to a news release issued Thursday.

The crime spree has struck fear in the heart of the Asian community in south Sacramento, turning once bustling corridors of commerce into virtual ghost towns in the evening hours as residents shy away from shopping or eating out.

Police weren’t the only ones taking credit this week for lowering crime. A group of residents, some of them armed, has been patrolling south Sacramento and responding to pleas for help posted on social media. Its organizer said Friday that these patrols are responsible for restoring the peace.

“Over the last month, it’s been peaceful,” Wei Xin Yang, organizer of the citizen patrols, said in Mandarin on Friday. “Before, it was like fighting a war. The patrols have been extremely effective.”

Yang said his patrols have been able to stop about six of 10 recent attempted robberies by responding quickly to victims using the Chinese social media app WeChat.

“After they see us, they run,” Yang said of the criminals.

Yang noted that Sacramento police statistics may be incomplete because many residents opt not to report attempted robberies to authorities after the criminals flee.

The Police Department did not return a call seeking comment Friday.

Grocery store owner and community leader Tom Phong said he estimates crime has decreased roughly 20 percent since the media attention. The customers at his Welco Supermarket are still opting to shop during the day, he said.

“After 7 p.m., it’s slow,” Phong said. “They are not confident to come back. They’re still afraid.”

Cathy Locke contributed to this report.

Richard Chang: 916-321-1018, @RichardYChang.

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