NY 'SafeWalks' Program Keeps On Walking
A community effort meant to curb incidents of violence against Asian Americans in New York is undergoing some changes - but it will still be around.
The "SafeWalks" program was devised to help Asian Americans remain safe walking in their communities after anti-Asian hate crimes rose during the pandemic.
In 2021, 140 such crimes were reported, the highest rate since reporting began.
Today, the group Nonviolent Peaceforce is stepping away from its role in SafeWalks - but other organizations are taking the baton.
Kalaya'an Mendoza, director of mutual protection for Nonviolent Peaceforce, described the group's new role.
"We're going to be primarily focused on providing safety trainings to community members," said Mendoza, "which are going to encompass a lot of the skills that volunteers would need to do Safe Walks and other forms of protective accompaniment."
Mendoza said it's gratifying that other groups are stepping in to make sure SafeWalks continues.
He said Nonviolent Peaceforce will provide those groups with training, hold debriefs for volunteers, and support leadership development.
Mendoza said as beneficial as the program has been, it hasn't been without challenges. One in particular was finding resources to meet the community needs.
He said the lack of focus on the issue of anti-Asian hate by elected officials has been challenging, too.
"I wish I could say that hate crimes and hate incidents are going down," said Mendoza. "But I think we're going to continue seeing them continue, and rise until there is more support for impacted communities on a federal, state and city level."
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has allocated $51 million for safety measures at nonprofit organizations that work with populations at risk of hate crimes.
Legislation has also been signed to strengthen hate crime investigation and reporting requirements on college campuses.