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In wake of deadly Atlanta massage parlor attacks, Athens police on lookout for Asian hate crimes

Police survey an area outside a massage parlour in Atlanta, Georgia, where four people were killed on Tuesday evening © AFP via Getty Images

By Joe Johnson

A gunman’s rampage this week in the metro-Atlanta area that killed eight people, including six women of Asian descent, has set off a new wave of fear and outrage among Asian-Americans, coming in a year of increased anti-Asian violence across the country.

Although investigators have not ruled out a racial motive, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long reportedly said he frequented massage parlors to satisfy a sex addiction and he carried out the attacks as a way to eliminate temptation.

Officials and advocates have noted an increase in crimes targeting Asian Americans during the Covid-19 pandemic, fueled by former president Donald Trump who repeatedly called the coronavirus -- first identified in Wuhan, China -- the “Chinese virus and the “Kung flu.”

The Athens-Clarke County Police Department viewed the deadly attacks as the work of a single individual who specifically targeted massage parlors and not necessarily Asian owned businesses.

“However, ACCPD is cognizant of a nationwide trend of crimes being committed against the Asian community,” said Lt. Shaun Barnett, the department's public information officer. “Although Athens-Clarke County has not seen any reported increase in crimes specifically targeting the Asian community, ACCPD has a duty to remain informed on these trends so that we can serve our community effectively,” he said. “In other words, when we recognize a crime trend happening nationwide, we take steps to try to prevent said trend from affecting Athens-Clarke County.”

According to Barnett, patrol officers are assigned to specific zones in the community, which allows them to have intimate knowledge of those areas.

“Shift supervisors conduct daily briefings with each patrol shift to discuss, in part, crime trends,” Barnett said. “With that being said, the expectation is that this crime trend would be discussed at shift briefings and that the officers that have relevant locations in their patrol zones would take proactive steps to prevent the trend from occurring in Athens-Clarke County.”

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