San Jose watch group aims to protect Asian elders

As hate crimes against Asian-Americans surge across the United States, one group of community organizers in San Jose, California is stepping up to protect their community.

A group of volunteers has formed - they call themselves Japantown Prepared, and patrol the streets of San Jose day in and out, lending a helping hand wherever needed, greeting community residents, and warning everyone to stay vigilant.

Group leader Richard Saito says he feels a personal responsibility to protect the most vulnerable, particularly the elderly.

"I see the attacks on the news and it breaks my heart to see that, see innocent seniors being attacked and knocked down and we had the one die... And then i get angry that people take out their aggressions on unsuspecting, undeserving defenseless people. So it makes me want to do things, something."

But the group serves as more than just a friendly face around the neighborhood.

Along with outreach patrols, speaking to community elders, Saito points out the community's history and landmarks.

The Nikkei Lantern, which bears a torch that symbolizes eternal hope, is inscribed with the date February 19, 1942, when the U.S. ordered the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

"It's kind of sad on one aspect. You like to think we've made some progress, but unfortunately when people are under a lot of stress, they lash out, they scapegoat, they marginalize people. It's probably a human reaction. I certainly don't justify it. But it's understandable."

Saito says the response to the Japantown Prepared initiative has been overwhelmingly positive so far, with some 20 volunteers and counting.