In her first visit to Chinatown since being appointed San Francisco’s new top prosecutor, District Attorney Brooke Jenkins promised a crackdown on hate crimes against Asian Americans to make the community feel safer.
Her announcement at a press event Wednesday echoed a similar pledge she made about drug cases last week. Just as she plans to review pleas offered in drug cases under her predecessor, Chesa Boudin, she said she will also take a closer look at high-profile cases involving Asian American victims.
“I would like to have a review conducted of those cases in order to see if they are properly charged,” she said Wednesday morning, flanked by about a dozen community leaders at the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association.
Once her team is in place, Jenkins said, she’ll make hate crimes prosecutions a top priority—particularly for cases with Asian American victims.
Gordon Kwan, presiding president of CCBA, welcomed Jenkins’ visit and voiced his support for her prosecutorial approach.
“We feel scared just walking on the street,” Kwan said in Cantonese. “San Francisco residents are strongly urging the government to crack down on crime.”
A KQED and Standard partnership story in June found that many highly publicized attacks on Asian Americans in San Francisco were not classified as hate crimes under Boudin’s tenure.
Jenkins—a vocal critic of Boudin’s handling of crimes against Asian victims—said she will make sure that her office “can make the corrections” as needed. She declined to name which cases she plans to review but promised to bring changes.
“We are not stuck with only what (Boudin) was doing,” she added.
After Wednesday’s press conference, Jenkins walked through Chinatown to visit local merchants and hear from multiple community members. Mason Lee, a spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office, served as an interpreter between Jenkins and community members.
During the walk-and-talk, some attendees expressed concerns that Proposition 47—a 2014 voter-approved state measure that downgraded nonviolent offenses, including shoplifting for merchandise worth $950 or less—softened crime-deterring penalties.
Jenkins also addressed questions about how she plans to staff up her office.
No major personnel changes have been made since Jenkins took over at the end of last week, but political observers are keeping a close eye on her personnel decisions.
During Boudin’s term, he promoted multiple Chinese Americans to key positions in the DA’s Office, including the chief of victim services, Kasie Lee, and Chief Assistant DA Marshall Khine. Jenkins said she’s still deciding on her top staff, but promised that the leadership team will be “diverse.”
Before the June recall in which voters ousted Boudin, the former DA had aggressively targeted plaintiffs who brought what he called “fraudulent” lawsuits against small businesses alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Jenkins said she, too, will continue those legal challenges to protect Chinatown businesses.
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