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POLICE BOOST BUSINESS OWNERS’ FIGHT AGAINST CRIME BY GAINING THEIR TRUST

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Khoy Vu says people have stolen from his electronics shop, but he hasn't called the police to report them.

"I didn't know who to call," he said. "It's hard to decide because we don't know if it's important or a crime. The police, they have a lot of jobs to do and don't have time for everything."Vu's hesitancy to call police is common among Asian business owners. They come from countries where it may be hard to decide who the good guys are. Cops often take payoffs and some people are both government officials and gang-sters.

The confusion comes from the Asians' attempts to distinguish between crimes against property and crimes against people.

"That's changing through the Americanization," said Dave Browning, a detective with the multiagency Salt Lake Metropolitan Gang Unit.

But Wednesday morning, Vu and his wife Kim Tran, who owns a hair salon, got a visit from Browning, along with detectives Kent Cravens and Kevin Nudd. Browning was introducing Nudd to business owners and asking them to report crimes.

"This is the first time somebody's come around to visit us," Vu told the officers. "This is great. We've got somebody worried about our business."

He said shoplifters won't get away with their crime next time because he'll call the police immediately. Browning and Cravens also helped local business owners to form an Asian Business Alliance, which has been meeting monthly to unite in the fight against crime.

Vu said he plans to attend the meetings to send a message to criminals.

"If we don't, the bad people will feel like they can take advantage of us," Vu said.

Loc Luu, owner of the Ly Ly Cafe, said he attends the meetings and plans to continue.

"I want to get together (with other business owners) and work together and be strong, so the criminals are aware that we're together," Luu said.

Many Asian business owners don't accept checks or bank cards, fearing they're no good, Luu said. But a jewelry store operating on a cash-only basis is tempting for criminals. The businesses plan to talk about prevention and net-work-ing. Luu said they'll exchange information and watch out for each other.

Ut Nguyen, owner of the Ly Little Saigon Market, has been in business about a year. The meetings are also attractive to him.

"I haven't had a lot of problems so far," he said.

Nguyen also talked with detectives Wednesday morning. He plans to call them if he has any trouble. Nguyen and Luu both have questions about laws and police procedure. Browning, Cra-vens and Nudd say they are more than happy to help them understand how things work here.

Nguyen has a panic alarm in his shop, but many Asian stores lack technology needed to combat shop-lifters and other criminals.

Browning asks them about extortion, but no one has had problems so far. They all say that was a problem in California, and they hoped to avoid it by working here.

Nguyen went to California but returned to Utah a year later because of high gang-related crime. His is one of 45 Asian businesses in West Valley City alone.

Although West Valley City has the greatest concentration of Asians, it has no Asian police officers. Nudd and Browning are hoping a Vietnamese man they've been working with will qualify for a POST scholarship and that West Valley City will hire him.

"West Valley really needs an Asian officer," Browning said.

Many of the business owners speak little or no English and their children often have to act as interpreters for police. Cultural differences make it difficult for police and business owners to communicate.

Browning hopes that officers' work with business owners in the alliance will help establish a working relationship between the two.

Those business owners who've recently come from other countries, especially communist countries, are the most distrustful of police. Browning hopes organizations like the business alliance will allow those who've lived here longer to educate the new business owners.

He hopes that barrier will erode and working relationships will develop as they learn the laws of their new country.

"It's getting way better," he said. "There's a need for a personal commitment to them and once that commitment's given, they'll give you 100 percent. We're trying to have a groundwork, a network, a base, so we don't have the problems that Southern California has."

Robbery victims

Home Invasion robbery victims* are chosen because:

They are believed to own or operate a business

They are perceived to possess great wealth

They are presumed to reject banking institutions and store their wealth in hiding places within their home.

They are presumed to be the type of people who will not report the crime to the police.

*The victims are almost always of Asian descent.