Acting U.S. Attorney Williams and Police Commissioner Outlaw Host Town Hall to Discuss Collaborative Asian Community Safety Initiative
PHILADELPHIA (STL.News) Acting United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams and Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw hosted a town hall meeting this week to discuss the Asian Community Safety Initiative, in partnership with the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations; and the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation . The event was held in-person and virtually from the PCDC office in Center City, Philadelphia. The Executive Director of PCDC, John Chin, moderated the event.
Speakers at the meeting included Assistant United States Attorneys, FBI Agents, and ATF Agents who work together to investigate and prosecute at the federal level hate crimes and violent crimes directed at the Asian community. Representatives from the Philadelphia Police Department spoke about how the department works with federal law enforcement when investigations are pursued at the federal level, and officers of Asian descent introduced themselves and re-affirmed their commitment to serving the community of which they are a part. The audience was given examples of crimes that are prosecuted under local and federal statutes, information about how to report crimes to the appropriate authorities, and resources to get more information including contact information for the presenting agencies. Finally, a representative from PCHR discussed incidents which might not be criminal in nature, but are nevertheless upsetting to recipients and which may be addressed through services offered by the commission.
Following the presentations, speakers took questions from the audience (both virtual and in-person). Questions ranged from how to overcome language barriers, to how to ensure cultural competency, to how the Department could leverage future technologies to assist with crime reporting by the community.
“Our goal is to stop crimes before the occur, and tonight’s meeting is an important step toward achieving that goal,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Williams. “I want to thank the members of the community in attendance who have come here to engage with law enforcement and work together towards positive change and a safer city. It will require effort from everyone to achieve this goal.”
“Acts of violence and hate against our AAPI community members are entirely unacceptable, and our department remains committed to working with our law enforcement and community partners to address these serious concerns,” said Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw. “Earlier this year, the PPD surveyed members of the Patrol and Detective Bureaus in order to identify Police Officers, Supervisors and Detectives that are interested in participating in a program of AAPI Community Outreach to be conducted jointly by the PPD and the U.S Attorney’s Office. Numerous Police Officers, Sergeants, and investigators of AAPI descent are participating in this program that is being guided by our Deputy Commissioner of Investigations, Ben Naish. We look forward to this new partnership.”
“It’s crucial for us to listen to members of the community, to hear their fears and concerns about hate incidents and violent crime,” said Bradley S. Benavides, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “We also want to answer people’s questions, and let them know how the FBI and our partners are working on their behalf. Everyone deserves to feel safe in their community.”
“ATF remains dedicated to investigating violent firearm-related crimes throughout the Philadelphia region,” said Matthew Varisco, Special Agent in charge of ATF’s Philadelphia Field Division. “Together, with our law enforcement partners, we will continue to take measures to ensure the safety of our communities.”
“We have been working tirelessly since the beginning of the pandemic to address anti-Asian hate and bias, and we see this event as a critical step in educating our communities about the importance of reporting hate incidents. In addition, this event functions to build trust between law enforcement and the AAPI communities–trust that is crucial to build and maintain in order to keep our communities safe,” said Albert Randy Duque, Deputy Director, PCHR.
“The coming together of community and law enforcement is a critical tool to abating violence, especially against Asian American communities,” said John Chin, Executive Director, PCDC. “As a community-based organization, PCDC has been helping victims, leading advocacy, and championing equitable resources to overcome language and cultural barriers. This meeting was a step in the right direction, and we appreciate the Department of Justice and Philadelphia Police Department’s commitment to addressing hate crimes and violence against Asian American communities.”