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Asians Are Automatically Labeled Gang Members

NCJ Number
D C Tsang
Date Published
2 pages
This article reports on an incident in which an Asian- American (Vietnamese) youth is alleged by the author to have been falsely accused of a crime based largely on a tattoo and cigarette burns on his skin, which the police believe to be signs of his gang membership; implications are drawn for police bias and misinformation that leads to the mistreatment of Asian- Americans.
Tu Anh Tran, 22, who legally immigrated from Vietnam in 1988, is charged with murder, attempted murder, and robbery, which stemmed from his attempt to break up a fight in a restaurant. Tu says tattoos and cigarette burns on his arm and hand, inflicted years ago as a memorial to his dead mother, have caused police to label him a gang banger. He has no prior convictions. John Song, an associate professor of criminal justice at Buffalo State, wrote his dissertation on the conflict between law enforcement and Southern Californians of Vietnamese and Chinese descent. He states that police are incorrectly generalizing from a small sample of arrestees with body markings. He believes that such flawed gang profiles perpetuate stereotypes of Asians as criminals. Many in the Orange County Asian-American community fear that too many youths are automatically labeled gang members, based on little evidence. They note that even though the 1990 census put Westminster's population at less than 23 percent Asian Pacific, 72 percent of those stopped by police as part of the Tri-Agency Resource Gang Enforcement Team program have been Asian.