ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said the uptick in violence and harassment against Asian American communities hits close to home. In response, he’s ordering law enforcement across the state to step up help protect these groups.

“Sadly our country is being torn apart by those who seek to divide and separate us solely based on our identities,” Hogan said.

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“As the Asian first lady in Maryland and first generation immigrant- my heart is broken for victims of hate crimes,” said First Lady Yumi Hogan.

Gov. Larry Hogan and First Lady Yumi Hogan paid a visit to Asian and Pacific Islander-owned businesses along Korean Way in Ellicott City on Monday.

“Hate has no home here,” Yumi Hogan said. “I’m here to lift up the voice of Asian Americans with you. Usually Asian culture- we never speak up, now it’s time to speak up.”

Their visit was an effort to raise awareness of the challenges Asian American communities are facing and to condemn racism.

“I’m sickened by the racism that my wife and daughters and their friends have had to contend with throughout their lives,” Gov. Hogan said.

The visit was prompted by the wake of unprovoked violence against Asian Americans since the coronavirus pandemic started last year, and the recent Atlanta-area shootings that left eight people dead including six Asian women.

“These attacks reinforce the fear hurt and anger that many Asians in America feel as this hatred seems to rise unabated,” Gov. Hogan said. “Nearly one third of all Asian Americans say that they’ve experienced some form of discrimination since the pandemic began.”

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This comes as Howard County officials revealed authorities are now investigating the burglaries at four Asian-owned businesses in February as “hate bias incidents.”

It’s a county that’s home to more than 60,000 Asian Americans.

“This is why Howard County has worked to not only respond, but to work to further prevent hate and violence against this community,” said Howard County Executive Calvin Ball.

Business owners in the community are expressing their concerns about their safety.

“We feel very scared, worried one day my restaurant will be broken in and I’m also worried about my employee safety,” said an unidentified business owner.

In response, the governor is calling on law enforcement across Maryland to immediately step up visibility to assist these groups.

Gov. Hogan said awareness bulletins have bene issued to help ensure the safety of Asian-owned businesses against further attacks. He’s urging anyone who is the victim or has witnessed a hate crime to please come forward.

The state’s hate crime hotline is 1-866-481-8361.

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“Beyond the policy changes, leaders must remind all Americans that what we have common binds us together as a nation – and that hate of any kind, racism of any kind against anyone is unamerican, unacceptable and wrong,” Gov. Larry Hogan.