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DENVER (KDVR) – Bias-motivated crimes against Asian Americans have been on the rise nationwide over the past year. Colorado is not immune. Denver’s mayor is sounding the alarm on the issue.

The Asian Americans who spoke to FOX31 for this story said crimes targeting their community are extremely underreported. They also explained that racism targeting Asians is nothing new, but the pandemic has made it much worse.

While talking with Asian community leaders on Thursday, Mayor Michael Hancock tackled this ugly reality of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have seen an increase in bias-motivated crime toward Asians,” Hancock said. “These are some of the most dastardly inappropriate actions.”

Finding victims to speak openly has not been easy due to pain and fear. Joie Ha has experienced her own pain due racism.

“Even growing up, for me, in Colorado I’ve been called a lot of racial slurs … being shouted out the window of a car,” Ha said.

Ha is fighting back against the hate. She is active in the community as vice chair of the Denver Asian American Pacific Islander Commission. She’s using her voice to help non-Asians gain a better understanding of diversity within the broad Asian community.

“The model minority myth continues to sell the idea that we’re doing just fine … that there’s nothing that we’re necessarily struggling with,” Ha explained.

Activist Laila Ireland, who was part of Hancock’s virtual event on Thursday, shared similar thoughts.

“As a community, we have to end the model minority myth,” Ireland said.

Slurs, spitting and assaults are all on the rise, according to community leaders. Denver police crime statistics are extremely unreliable in showing this. Records show only three bias-motivated crimes against Asians in Denver last year. That is higher from zero recorded in 2019. So far this year, Denver police have reported two bias-motivated crimes targeting Asians.

“Our community often stays silent about these things,” Ha said. “This might be a reason why you haven’t heard about it so often. We don’t always want to be speaking up because we want to be more well assimilated, to be frank.”

Police cannot measure what’s not reported.

Recent videos showing Asians violently shoved have produced outrage nationwide. But hate runs the gamut and is not always overt. Many in the community point to political rhetoric causing irrational fear of Asians, and, in turn, discrimination.

“You start to see folks not going to Asian businesses or restaurants anymore,” Ha said. “You start to see folks outwardly avoiding Asian folks.”

For those who are targets of bias-motivated crimes, online resources are available:

Stop AAPI Hate

Asian Americans Advancing Justice

Denver Bias-Motivated Crime Reporting