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Community News: Central

CHINATOWN : Businesses Urged to Report Crimes

June 27, 1993|IRIS YOKOI

Merchants need to report all suspicious activity in order to help fight crime, a panel of police officers and detectives told a group of local business owners.

The recent community meeting, sponsored by the Chinatown Public Safety Assn., was convened to educate merchants about dealing with extortionists, beggars and defrauders. The key, according to the officers, is to call police.

Detective Ken Beno, an organized-crime investigator, made the most impassioned plea for cooperation from merchants as he explained that extortion is on the rise "at an alarming rate" in Chinatown. Merchants are being bullied out of thousands of dollars but decline to report the crimes because they fear retribution, don't trust police or think extortion is just an annoyance and part of doing business, Beno said.

Some extortionists simply demand monthly payments from merchants and threaten to respond to refusals with injury or damage. Beno told of one auto shop owner who refused a gang's repeated demands for money. Six Molotov cocktails were thrown into the shop yard, destroying five cars, said Beno.

Other thugs claim they will provide "protection" for business owners at a price of several hundred dollars a month, Beno said. Extortionists also try to sell goods or services to merchants at inflated prices or demand free goods and services, Beno said.

To illustrate the size of the problem, Beno told of how police recently arrested four men, led by a member of the Wah Ching organized-crime organization, on suspicion of burglary in the San Gabriel Valley. Police think the group has extorted or tried to extort from more than 20 Chinatown businesses, but only one merchant would talk to police, Beno said.

Forgery Detective Joe Paulo also suggested that merchants spend $2.50 to $25 on devices that can detect magnetic ink on legitimate checks and currency.

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