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SAN DIEGO — A national campaign raising awareness of anti-Asian violence and discrimination has branched into San Diego.

Lilly Cheng, director of the Chinese Cultural Center at San Diego State University, on Monday, May 24, 2021.

In Mira Mesa, local leaders gathered Monday to denounce hate crimes against Asian-Americans and show support of The Yellow Whistle Campaign. Organizers say the effort, which began last month in New York City, uses yellow whistles as a symbol of “self-protection and solidarity” and can be used by people to call for help.

Lilly Cheng, director of the Chinese Cultural Center at San Diego State University, joined others to pass out whistles to restaurant customers.

“The Asian-Americans typically are very quiet, very silent – almost invisible,” Cheng said. “We want to use the color yellow, which is a very loud color, and the whistle, which is a loud tool.

“Now we are speaking out, speaking up and speaking. That’s the symbol.”

In recent months, numerous videos have surfaced in communities across the U.S. showing attacks against Asian-Americans, and often the elderly.

A 2021 report by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino found that anti-Asian hate crimes reported to police in 15 American cities and counties rose 169% during the first quarter of this year compared to the same period a year ago. According to the report, some of the nation’s highest reporting cities have been a “reliable indicator” of trends in the past 10 years.

The report also depicts increases in hate crimes in Los Angeles and San Francisco from a year ago. San Diego tallied only one reported hate crime in the first quarter of 2021, the report shows.

A Del Mar resident, who is Asian and spoke to FOX 5 on the condition of anonymity, said she hasn’t “seen anything down here where they’ve picked on people.”

“I feel more comfortable down here than I do up there,” the woman said.

But local leaders say there’s still concern as hate crimes often go unreported for various reasons.

Earlier this year, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, the first Filipino-American to hold the city’s top job, said the issue was “deeply personal,” joining a group of local leaders to provide resources for Asian-owned businesses.

District Attorney Summer Stephan also urged residents to utilize the Hate Crimes Hotline at 619-515-8805 or to report crimes through this online form.

“We tend to say silent,” said Ron Cho, with Asian Pacific Islander-American Public Affairs. “We can’t stay silent anymore.”