The Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce (OCCC) was formed in 1985 to provide support and a forum of discussion for local businesses. Today, the Chamber is a recognized resource for the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community — in and outside of Oakland — and has over 150 members who represent diverse ethnic groups, industries and professions.
A Rise in Anti-AAPI Incidents
In April of 2021, OCCC president Carl Chan was attacked in the city’s downtown while on his way to help another assault victim. Chan recalls that his attacker called him an ethnic slur and cursed repeatedly. “He did not rob me so it was basically just an assault; an attack.” While he was on the ground, Chan managed to take a photo of the suspect, which helped Oakland police make an arrest shortly after.
The attack is just one of over 9,000 anti-Asian incidents that have been reported since the pandemic began in 2020, which has also had a devastating impact on businesses.
"The fear is not only for the patrons, but also employees.” says Chan, “[Businesses] are so fearful they prefer to close early. We also have many juveniles driving around Chinatown and carrying guns, so they're also hurting people before they're being robbed.”
Verkada’s Pledge to Donate $100,000 Worth of Security Cameras
"Our employees are heartbroken watching the disturbing rise in discrimination, hate and violence directed at the AAPI community, and wanted to help fight back " says Filip Kaliszan, CEO of Verkada. "We hope our products help give these organizations a sense of security and empowerment as they confront this despicable behavior."
In response to the attack on Chan and rise in anti-AAPI violence, Verkada has donated 20 video security cameras to the OCCC and pledged 100 cameras to be installed across different AAPI communities. The goal is to provide organizations with the tools that they need to keep people, property and assets safe, while protecting individuals’ right to privacy.
Providing Safety and Support to the AAPI Community
"Violence and prejudice have absolutely no place in our lives,” says Chan, “The Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce is a vital voice in our community, and we will not be intimidated or cower in the face of this unacceptable discrimination. We are grateful to Verkada for stepping up and assisting the Chamber in doing all that we can to protect ourselves as we all work hard to thrive together in our diverse city.”
Research shows that Asian Americans are least likely to report hate incidents. By offering visual evidence to support their reports, the new security system can help encourage victims to come forward with their cases.
Reducing Investigation Times
The cameras will not take the place of police patrols, but instead, act as a deterrent and facilitate investigations with visual evidence. In the event of another attack, it takes seconds for designated administrators to find, save and share footage with first responders. Archived footage can be stored indefinitely to unlimited cloud-based servers for digital evidence management, and is automatically timestamped to ensure its usability in court.
Protecting People While Preserving Privacy
To emphasize the privacy concerns from the community, the camera footage only be used to assist essential criminal investigations. Chan says, "We will work with police to provide footage that may coincide with a criminal investigation." The footage review requests must be submitted by police with case numbers or the victims who report the crimes to the police. The security cameras will only be reviewed by designated Chamber staff.
With full clarity and ownership over its video security data, the Chamber can protect its communities in ways that respect individuals’ privacy, while simultaneously keeping them safe. Although cameras can support edge-based People Analytics that include Face Search and Person of Interest alerts, these capabilities are turned OFF by default to ensure compliance with local laws. Administrators are able to limit who has access to these features so that potentially sensitive data is only used by those who have a need – and right – to know. Additionally, Verkada does not natively integrate with any third-party databases; data cannot be shared without the Chamber’s knowledge and consent.
“When things happen to you, be calm and understand how to protect yourself as much as you can.” Chan says the Verkada cameras couldn't come at a better time citing slow grant response from the city. “The hate is still ongoing. This is actually pretty much a pandemic, and we must find … positive ways to stop this kind of hate not only against our community but all communities.”
Verkada’s goal is to work with organizations to provide tools for combatting this unacceptable rise in acts of hate. The next step is to expand the program outside of the Bay Area, and increase the donation funds to $250,000 in 2022. Any AAPI-owned or affiliated organizations who would like to apply for the program can fill out the security camera donation form.