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Asian American Group Reaches Out to Law Enforcement

August 17, 2011 | Virginia News

More than a year after Vanessa Pham's murder, group hosts event to discuss issues facing Virginia's Asian American population

As Fairfax County Police continue to search for clues that could help them solve 19-year-old Vanessa Pham's murder, an area Vietnamese American organization is trying to raise awareness about the case to encourage those who may know what happened to step forward.

On Saturday, police and the Vietnamese American population gathered for the first-ever Asian American Advocacy and Resource Day, which brought some of the top leaders in Virginia’s Asian American community to the Fairfax Government Center to promote crime prevention and unity amongst Fairfax County’s largest minority population.

The event was hosted by the Voice of Vietnamese Americans, a Virginia-based non profit organization that aims to empower Vietnamese Americans by promoting civic engagement in their communities.

More than half a dozen elected officials – including Virginia State Sen. Janet Howell, Virginia State Del. Vivian Watts, the office of U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova, Supervisors Penelope Gross, John Foust and John Cook –discussed crime, redistricting and education, among other issues, with the county's Asian-American population.

Vanessa Pham, a Falls Church resident, was one of seven Asian Americans murdered in Virginia in 2010, according to Virginia State Police.

During his presentation about public safety and crime prevention, Vietnamese American Tony Pham (no relation to Vanessa Pham), General Counsel of the Richmond City Sherriff’s office, said violent crimes in which victims were Asian Americans continue to rise in Virginia, while they are decreasing throughout the rest of the country.

He said 939 Asian Americans were victims of murder, rape, assault, burglary and robbery in 2010.

“I’m hoping that community leaders that are here today get an opportunity to take the knowledge given by these presenters and share that information with your individual respective communities,” Pham said. “This is an opportunity to bridge that gap of communication between law enforcement and the general community that is desperately needed.”

It's been just more than a year since Vanessa Pham was mysteriously murdered, her body and car discarded on the side of Arlington Boulevard. On Saturday, Detective Robert Bond gave a presentation about her murder case, with a chronological timeline of the James Madison High School graduate's whereabouts that day. He hoped someone in attendance would recall something from that day, or, pass the information on to another person who could.

“As far as our investigation, what we know at this point is that surveillance captured Vanessa coming into the shopping center and leaving the shopping center,” Bond said. “It doesn’t capture anybody attacking Vanessa, however all of our evidence suggests that the attack was initiated in the shopping center and that the suspect got into her car with her and forced her to drive to a location where she was eventually killed.”

At the event, VVA also provided voter registration, employment resources, and information about health care and higher education for those in attendance.

“The Vietnamese community is growing and it is developing into a strong collective voice right now in Virginia,” said Vel Hernandez, a graduate student at American University and volunteer for VVA who helped organize the event. “For very long, Vietnamese have immigrated here, and now with higher education rates and Vietnamese working in so many different sectors, people are saying, ‘What can I do to give back to the community?’ VVA is helping those who want to give back and want to help the community.”

Hernandez said she hopes the day becomes an annual event.

“We had 60 to 75 people come out today, but maybe next year 200 or even more,” she said. “VVA is really just here to give back to the community and advocate for the issues that are important to Vietnamese.”

Source: Falls Church Patch