Poughkeepsie police are warning residents about burglaries in Westchester County, NY and Stamford, CT that are aimed at Asian Americans. Five burglaries were reported in June and July of 2010. Ten additional burglaries were reported in nearby towns. Even more have been reported all around the greater New York area. Most were perpetrated against households with Asian surnames.
These burglaries often occur in the daytime when the residents aren’t home. Poughkeepsie Police Chief Thomas Mauro elaborated. “They call first. If no one answers, they knock on several doors. If no one answers the door they’ll try to break into a door that’s not too conspicuous.” The thieves typically steal cash, jewelry and identification documents.
Sergeant Andrew Gallagher of the City of Stamford Police Department added, “There has been an ongoing investigation involving a ring targeting the Asian-American community.”
In the Greater Philadelphia area, a similar string of targeted burglaries was more violent. Two cases even resulted in deaths. Armed thieves here followed Asian American business owners home and robbed them at gunpoint.
Arrests have been made in many of these cases. There’s no nationwide trend here, just some regional burglars who went after what they saw was easy prey. And that’s just the thing.
Asian American households and business owners are being targeted because criminals believe they are more likely to keep cash at home and less likely to the report crimes.
“It’s a form of racial profiling,” says Sgt. Gallagher.
I find this highly disturbing. Disturbing that these hard working families are being robbed. Disturbing that these thieves are using stereotypes to determine their targets. And disturbing that there’s an ounce of truth in these stereotypes.
It’s not hard to read about how Asian Americans have a distrust of banks, distrust of the police, stereotype of being quiet, desire to not cause waves, and propensity not to report crimes. Sure, the thieves are probably not reading the same articles I am, but I can understand how they arrived at their conclusions. Though exceptions abound, generalities were all they needed to act.
But, wait — they believe in Asian American stereotypes. What about the stereotype that all Asian Americans know martial arts? Aren’t they afraid of breaking into your house and getting karate-chopped?
I kid, I kid.
My intention isn’t to cause a panic or holler about some new nationwide phenomenon. If you live in North Carolina or California, you’re probably safe from these crimes, but if you live in the New England area, this should be a very real concern; there has been little publicity about these crimes, save the few regional news sites I found. So at the very least, I would like to bring this issue to light.
If you live in the New York, Connecticut, or Pennsylvania areas, the authorities recommend following these crime prevention tips:
Be careful, and be safe.
(Photo credit: Lolcats and funny pictures)