Crimes committed by and against Asians are on the rise in the 4th District - some of which, police say, may be gang related.
In April, four Asian men pulled off a heist at an Asian-owned jewelry store at 1215 S. Sixth St. in the 3rd District. After two of them entered, pretending to want an appraisal, they produced guns and ordered the owner and his wife to the ground, hitting the man in the head with a pistol. Using the store security buzzer, the pair let in two more accomplices.
The group walked away with about $30,000 in goods, Detective Jim Dunlap of South Detective Division said. Two months later, police have been unable to crack the case, despite appealing to the media and releasing store surveillance footage, the detective said.
That same month, three Asian men were arrested after shooting a 27-year-old Asian in the buttocks on the 1600 block of South Fifth Street.
The most recent example of Asian-on-Asian crime happened shortly after 12:30 p.m. Sunday in Mifflin Square Park at Sixth and Wolf streets when a group of males, ages 18 to 25, attacked an 18-year-old with broken bottles, cutting and stabbing him in the face, head and arms, Detective Joe Chiaro of South Detectives said. The teen, who was treated and released at a local hospital, told police he knew the group that jumped him.
At a June 8 police meeting, 4th District Capt. Joseph Zaffino expressed concern about an "ongoing Asian-animosity issue," in his district. "We've had numerous shootings involving Asian males over the last three to four months. It has not been established whether it is drug-related, territorial or retaliatory," Zaffino said, adding the casualties and instigators are mostly Cambodian, Vietnamese and Chinese.
According to South Detectives Capt. Joseph O'Brien, there have been far more robberies than shootings involving this ethnicity and police have made arrests in many cases.
From Jan. 1 through June 15, there have been 182 robberies in the 4th District, 29 of which had Asian victims - 16 percent - according to police statistics.
In the same time period last year, there were 158 robberies with 18 Asian victims, making for 11 percent of the tally.
South Detectives was unable to provide statistics for shootings for either year.
In conjunction with local detective bureaus, the police department's Criminal Intelligence Unit investigates all gang-related crime.
There are two major Asian gangs in South Philly - Red Scorpions and Tiny Rascal Gang, known as the TRGs - whose members are mostly Cambodian, Criminal Intelligence Unit Capt. Charles Bloom said.
They flare up every few years. Most of the people in these shootings [victims and perpetrators] are on our radar as associated with these gangs or in these gangs," the captain said.
There are two TRG factions, one on Sixth Street near Wolf and the other around 15th and Dickinson streets. Recently, the leader of the TRG Sixth Street group got out of prison, Bloom said, declining to name the man.
Police are trying to figure out if some of the recent shootings might be linked to the released leader trying to take over the 15th Street faction - much to their chagrin, Bloom said.
"The 15th Street guys aren't having it," he said.
ASIAN COMMUNITY LEADER Brad Baldia, director of development and outreach for United Communities Southeast Philadelphia, also believes the gun violence is gang related. "A lot of it's been some retaliation back and forth between the two [factions]," he said.
A second-generation Filipino, Baldia was one of the founders of Asian Town Watch in 2004. The group formed in response to the escalating violence against Asians at this time - two restaurant owners in the 17th District were killed in robberies. But lack of new members and failure to secure funding from the city's Operation Town Watch initiative forced the first ethnically focused Town Watch group in Philadelphia to fold last year.
Baldia, who is also a member of Men United For a Better Philadelphia (MUBP), thinks it's unfortunate the Asian Town Watch disbanded, especially now, when it's needed most.