Members of the Vietnamese community are now more willing to contact area police departments to report crimes and feel more confident that such crimes can be solved, a community activist said yesterday.
"People now understand what they have to do" to combat crime, said Thang Nhut Tran, head of an organization that represents 37 Vietnamese groups in the region.
Tran's assessment came as police and community members met yesterday at the Eden Center in Falls Church. Tran and other community members handed out plaques to police from Falls Church, Fairfax County and Arlington for their work in solving recent "home invasion" robberies that have plagued Vietnamese residents.
They also thanked Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), who toured the Eden Center, introducing a member of the FBI and about a dozen police officers to the predominantly Vietnamese merchants who operate the restaurants, jewelry stores and other businesses there.
Wolf, whose office organized this event and other meetings between the Vietnamese community and police, urged merchants to call the police at any sign of trouble. He said later that "a bonding" has occurred between the Vietnamese community and the police. "There was a reluctance to call the police. Now that's gone," said Wolf, who is running for reelection next month.
Since 1986, there have been 19 reported home invasion robberies in Fairfax County. Police passed out statements written in Vietnamese saying arrests have been made in 17 of the cases and listing some of the jail terms given those convicted.
Many of the home invasion victims have been merchants. These robberies of Asian homes are usually committed by young Vietnamese men who break in, tie up family members, then threaten and beat them until the whereabouts of valuables are revealed.
In the latest incident three weeks ago, the owner of the Bach Tuyet jewelry store at the Eden Center and his family were the victims. Gunmen broke into the owner's McLean home, stayed overnight and then forced the owner to go to the jewelry store in an apparent robbery attempt. Customers at a nearby restaurant were briefly taken hostage, and one gunman was wounded by a Falls Church police officer before surrendering.