John Park, 71, feels at ease when his wife is at their shop in Jackson Heights, a diverse neighborhood in Queens, New York. That wasn’t always the case.
Park, owner of Four Seasons Uniform, a medical uniform business, saw an increase in theft and harassment after COVID swept through the city in early 2020. Before, he had been using a cheap security camera that could only record a few hours at night.
Thanks to a new program by Google called AAPI Strong, which gives Asian and Pacific Islander small-business owners access to free Nest cameras, he’s been able to monitor his store and help deter shoplifters from taking clothes off the rack and running.
“Honestly it’s very, very secure. There’s like a security guard here,” said Park.
The program comes in response to a rise in racist rhetoric and violence against Asians during the pandemic. President Donald Trump, among others, often referred to COVID as the China virus or Kung Flu, leading to a spike in anti-Asian hashtags on Twitter and other social media platforms. Data published earlier this year shows anti-Asian hate crimes increased 339 percent in 2021, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism. A third of Asian Americans say they’ve altered their daily routines over concerns of violence, according to the Pew Research Center.
The AAPI Strong program by Google, spearheaded by the Asian employee resource group within the company, aims to give an added layer of security to community members who might face potential violence.
Violence is a “part of every conversation I have with my family and AAPI friends, whether we’re sharing our own experiences or checking in to make sure everyone has gotten home safely,” Jean Shim, senior creative for Google Nest Marketing, said in a blog post.
Google declined to comment further beyond Shim’s post.
AAPI Strong offers three Nest security cameras to business owners in Houston, Atlanta, Chicago, New York City and the Washington, DC, metro area, which includes parts of Maryland and Virginia. It’s limited to brick-and-mortar stores with no more than three locations. They can’t be part of a chain or franchise and must be at least 51% owned by someone from the AAPI community.
Businesses must apply on the AAPI Strong website by Oct. 31.
Google didn’t say if the program would expand to other cities.
While Park can check in on the store from his phone, he says it’s been a major relief for his wife.
“She’s very comfortable now,” he said. “She feels much safer.”