Pushing back: As violent robberies continue against Asian-Americans, police stress it’s safe to come forward

Detectives told a South Sacramento audience that it’s rare for gang members to retaliate against victims

This is an extended version of a story that appears in the November 9, 2017, issue.

When it comes to the rash of armed robberies and home invasions targeting Sacramento’s Asian-American community, one thing worrying police as much as the frequency of the attacks is the number that may be going unreported.

That was the message detectives emphasized at a November 1 community gathering at Freeport Boulevard. Investigators made it clear they can only stop the violence if victims call for help and then agree to testify.

“It’s a big deal,” said Detective John Fan, who made his presentation in English, Mandarin and Cantonese. “Lately we have seen more relatively elderly folks just walking home, and then they’re followed. A lot of times they’re forced into their house.”

Fan added that most of the robberies involve multiple suspects—usually young men—armed with handguns and with a getaway driver waiting nearby.

Police believe older Asian-Americans are being preyed upon because gang members now operate under the assumption such victims carry large sums of cash, are challenged by language barriers and are typically reluctant to cooperate with authorities. Fan told the audience that, in his experience, one reason that some elders in the Asian-American community don’t call for help is they’re worried about over-burdening the police.

“It is not a bother,” Fan emphasized, with another officer who speaks Hmong ready to reenforce the point. “We want you to call.”

Sacramento police have arrested more than 50 people suspected of armed robberies and home invasions in the south city over the last year. But the crimes are continuing, Fan acknowledged, and some victims are worried about coming forward due to the fear gang members will retaliate. For that reason, Fan invited Peter Chung to speak alongside him.

On January 20, 2016, Chung, his brother and his mother were held hostage at gunpoint in their home, driven to an ATM and then robbed of $8,000. Chung was pistol-whipped during the ordeal.

“He told me he would come back to keep me in line if I told,” Chung recalled of the men he ultimately testified against. Though Chung understands the terror that victims feel, he told the audience he has never regretted going to the police or standing up in court.

“It’s not an easy process,” he admitted. “But it is a process to healing.”