Earlier this year, 18-year-old Huang Chen was beaten and stabbed
to death while making deliveries for his family’s Chinese
restaurant in South Jamaica, Queens. The two teenagers who are
accused of killing him, then stuffing his body into a box and
dumping it in a pond, did so because, according to police, having
robbed him of $49, they did not want to be identified.
and seemingly capricious nature of Chen’s murder was only
the latest in what seems to be a pattern of violent attacks on Chinese deliverymen
working in the city. At least five Chinese deliverymen have been killed on the
job in the past five years.
Officer Michael Lau of the New York Police Department's
community affairs office, however, downplays the racial element
in these crimes, pointing out that all
deliverymen who work in high-crime areas are susceptible to violence regardless
of race. "It’s not just crimes against Chinese delivery people," said
Lau, "there are crimes against delivery
people in general."
The police department, however, has begun conducting
an ongoing series of outreach programs specifically designed for Chinese deliverymen,
the latest of which took
place in lower Manhattan at the end of March. During the program, which was
attended by over 200 restaurant owners and workers, police gave
a presentation in Mandarin
and English on safety measures that deliverymen could take to protect themselves.
In addition, flyers with safety tips were also distributed to command centers
in each precinct, and from there to many Chinese restaurants.
however, wonder about the police department's ability to deal empathetically
with deliverymen, many of whom are recent immigrants to the
United States and who may be undocumented.
"In this day and age, the fact that you may be undocumented
presents a problem," said
Sin Yen Ling, a lawyer with the Asian American Legal Defense Fund. She added
that, undocumented or not, "many immigrants are fearful of the police.
Many of them come from a homeland where police aren’t trustworthy."
Lau said that the police have taken steps to address these concerns. An
executive order prohibits officers from asking victims or witnesses
about their immigration status, a protection that is supposed to
continue throughout the entire
investigation and prosecution of a criminal case.
In addition, the police
department’s community affairs office has also
developed a new immigrant outreach program that specifically addresses
the fears of immigrants who have a distrust of government officials.
Stephens of the deputy commissioner’s office said that these
outreach efforts have led to a flood of tips being phoned in by
members of the immigrant community, albeit anonymously.
"The contact that we’re having is worthwhile in building
said, "Even anonymous tips didn’t happen before."
police department encourages deliverymen to report robberies or assaults
as quickly as possible so specific police action can be taken. In the
past, the department has used undercover officers to apprehend suspects
a pattern of assault against deliverymen. Officers have also trailed
deliverymen on their routes to see if anybody is waiting to rob or
Stevens, however, emphasizes the "common-sense" measures
the deliverymen could take to protect themselves while on the job.
"Maybe you want to set up some boundaries, like after a certain
hour you won’t go into buildings," Stevens said, "You
have to feel safe and use instinct, and if you don’t feel
safe about going into locations, then don’t go in."
Effendy, a deliveryman for a Malaysian restaurant in lower Manhattan,
said that in his seven years on the job, he has had his
five times, but he has managed to avoid being personally assaulted.
"We’re open until 11:30 PM," Effendy said, "but I’ll
only delivery until 11. The area around the
restaurant is okay, but I’m not so sure of the areas to the
east and west.
Many deliverymen who work in high crime areas are
recently arrived immigrants whose lack of language or job skills
prevent them from
taking a job in
safer areas. In addition, their low profit margins may prompt them
to take risks
in the hopes of making a few extra dollars.
"Many deliverymen are just scraping by to make a living," said
New York City Councilmember John Liu.
Deliverymen in Far Rockaway,
Queens reportedly make an average
of 60 runs per eight hour shift. Deliverymen often work longer
of their deliveries make them an easy target for robberies. In
addition, deliverymen often venture alone into apartment buildings
they are more likely to
get tipped if they deliver food to individual apartments instead
of waiting in a lobby.
"The trouble is that there are no quick fixes," said
Hyun Lee of the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence, "There
are a number of things that need to be addressed, such as the lack
of job opportunities for immigrants, as
well as working conditions so these immigrants don’t always
have to work around the clock."
In response to Chen’s
murder, members of New York city council, including Liu, Hiram
Monserrate and Charles Barron called for a one-day moratorium on
deliveries, suggesting that customers pick up orders themselves.
The event was supposed to honor Chen’s memory, and increase
awareness among many New Yorkers who take for granted the risks
involved in delivering a meal.
"We need to send a message," Liu said, "that it’s not going
to be open season on deliverymen or immigrants."
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