First-generation immigrants — and members of racial and ethnic minorities mistaken as newcomers — are often seen as easy targets by criminals.
The fatal shooting of Chinese restaurant owner Hong Zheng in Durham last weekend resonated with Lawrence Yoo, the son of first-generation Korean immigrants, whose parents were robbed numerous times in Philadelphia.
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“This hits home for me,” he said.
Yoo, pastor of Durham County's Waypoint Church, says many Asian immigrants keep a low profile in America and don't want to be seen as stirring up or getting mixed up in trouble.
But trouble seeks them out, Yoo said.
“I can walk into any largely Asian church … and easily find businessmen and women who have been robbed before, in minutes.”
After Zheng, 42, of Durham was killed in what the family described as an attempted robbery, his family said the incident was the fifth time individuals had broken into or attempted to break into their home since November 2015.
The family said they felt like they were being targeted by the same individuals because they own a Chinese restaurant, China Wok, and were frustrated by the Durham Police Department's response.
Police Department spokesman Wil Glenn outlined the agency's response in an email Thursday.
"Each case was assigned to a multi-agency task force created to focus on robberies and burglaries targeting Asian victims," Glenn wrote. "The multi-agency task force filed charges against six people in several cases in Durham and other jurisdictions. "
One of those individuals, David Jamal Lawson, was arrested in February 2017 charged with multiple felonies, including breaking and entering, in Durham County. He also faced charges in Wake County. Three of the charges are related to the Nov. 25, 2015, breaking and entering at Zheng's home — the first of the incidents at the famly's house. Other incidents took place on Jan. 13. 2016; June 4, 2016; and in July 2017.
"Officers were unable to identify suspects, mainly due to a lack of evidence," Glenn wrote.
Initially Lawson remained in jail on a $400,000 bail. His bail was reduced to $100,000 on June 6, 2017, and he was able to get out of jail the next day, according to court documents.
Glenn said Lawson and the five others have been indicted on federal charges.
Glenn said between January and October 2016, Durham police community resource officers contacted Asian businesses with recommendations for crime prevention and held multiple community safety meetings and security assessments.
“Patrol officers conducted directed-patrols at Asian restaurants and in the neighborhoods where the owners lived,” Glenn said. “Victim Services officers also met with victims to offer services”
Zheng house received its own security assessment by police June 13, 2016, Glenn added, “Officers then offered Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design recommendations to Ms. Chan.”
From April to November 2017, Community Resource Officers offered resources to robbery victims and also met with owners of Asian businesses. Officers continued to conduct crime-prevention assessments and directed patrols, and shared robbery prevention tips in English, Spanish, Korean, Chinese and Mandarin, Glenn said.