State Rep. Theresa Mah speaks at a community safety meeting at the Chinese Christian Union Church, 2301 S. Wentworth Ave., on Dec. 21, 2021. Credit: Provided

CHINATOWN — Neighbors honored a 71-year-old Chinatown man who was slain in a shooting earlier this month and called for for a collaborative, coordinated approach to making the neighborhood safer during a Tuesday night meeting.

About 20 neighbors, community group organizers, police officers and elected officials spoke at the meeting, which was organized by the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community. The virtual and in-person meeting was arranged after Woom Sing Tse, 71, was shot dead Dec. 7 near Haines Elementary while walking to buy a newspaper.

Alphonso Joyner, 23, of Morgan Park, has been charged with first-degree murder in the case. A judge described the shooting as an “execution” at a bail hearing for Joyner.

Police officers speaking at Tuesday’s meeting said they still do not know what motivated the person who killed Tse. The shooting did not appear to be part of a robbery or related to gangs, said Cmdr. Don Jerome. Some residents said they thought the shooting might have been a hate crime.

Since Tse’s death, there has been an outpouring of support — hundreds gathered near the spot he was killed for a vigil Dec. 10, and an online fundraiser in his memory has raised more than $100,000 — but neighbors have also had heightened concerns about the safety of residents, especially older people.

“So many community members have shared with me how afraid they are, and it really should not be like this,” Rep. Theresa Mah said at the meeting.

Woom Sing Tse, 71, was fatally shot Tuesday, Dec. 7 in Chinatown in what prosecutors called an “execution.” Credit: Facebook

Supt. David Brown said he is “committed to adding more police officers to the area.” Jerome said he hopes to get two more dedicated police cars assigned to Chinatown “shortly” and will bring in an officer who speaks Cantonese or Mandarin from another district.  

But Mah said a “two-pronged approach”is needed, with a focus on additional public safety resources and long-term community investment to address the root causes of violence.

Many community services, such as increasing access to mental health services and youth outreach programs, are already available or being planned, community group leaders told people at the meeting. 

Angela Lin, co-founder of nonprofit People Matter, is helping coordinate a resident-led public safety commission that will create community violence prevention programs.

The group’s members are proposing partnerships with local schools and other community groups to create after-school programs for kids “who are more susceptible to poverty and root causes of violence,” and working with elected officials to get guns off the street, Lin said.

The Chinese American Service League, which offers social programs like hot meals for older people and behavioral health services, is building toward implementing a “holistic approach to violence prevention measures,” said Chief Operating Officer Jered Pruitt.

Golden hour light graces the storefronts along Wentworth Avenue in Chinatown on Nov. 19, 2021. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

Some residents at the meeting also called for a more immediate response, saying they want more security equipment, such as lighting and cameras, to be installed in the neighborhood. A few said they have taken steps to do it themselves through community fundraising and donations. 

“We want to re-instill a sense of safety for our community, for our elders, so we’ve been donating and installing cameras, personal home surveillance, for our neighbors,” said Chris Javier, a deacon at the Chinese Christian Union Church in Chinatown. 

Johnny Zhang, a member of the Chinatown Security Foundation, said his group recently installed LED lights on several side streets that are dark at night as part of a pilot lighting project.

“Improving safety in our community isn’t something we can do individually, but it’s something we all have to work together on,” Zhang said in Mandarin.

Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th), who represents the area, also called for people to work together to “prevent more tragedies” across Chicago.

“We have to realize that what happens in every single neighborhood, across the city, concerns us all,” Sigcho-Lopez said. “We don’t live in bubbles. We need to bring forward a citywide strategy to prevent more tragedies like this.” 

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