PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Tonight, Philadelphia’s mayor and police commissioner hosted a town hall to address the growing threat of anti-Asian violence since the start of the pandemic.

Tonight’s message — hate is not a victimless crime. It causes generational trauma and can only be solved by conversation and coming together. But the time to do that is now.

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“We feel like we are second-class citizens here in America,” said John Chin with the Chinatown Development Corporation.

On Thursday night, leaders within Philadelphia’s Asian-American community gathered for a virtual town hall to share experiences of violence and racism faced by so many since the start of the pandemic.

“I hear people tell me, ‘Go back to China,’ or making racist comments to me in the streets. It has made me avoid taking public transportation as much as I can,” one woman said.

The mayor’s Commission on Asian American Affairs hosted the event.

“As a city, we take these attacks very seriously,” Mayor Jim Kenney said.

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Panelists debated short- and long-term changes needed, including legal measures, more reporting tools and more boots on the ground today.

“Let’s take the politics out of this. Let’s call it what it is, that is a hate crime,” said Naroen Chhin with the 1 Love Movement.

“In the short term, we enhanced our patrol in the Asian-American business corridors and residential areas throughout the city where we saw these upticks,” Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said.

And for the next generation, “We need to diversify the police department. We need more Asian-Americans in uniform, in our police department,” Kenney said.

Before tonight’s discussion, Eyewitness News spoke to Jimmy Luu, who has administered more than 2,000 COVID-19 vaccines to those in the Asian-American community through Sunray Pharmacies.

He said the No. 1 thing we all can do is acknowledge this as a problem, something he says many he talks with still don’t feel is happening. He’s hopeful others from diverse communities will join discussions like this to advocate for change.

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CBS3’s Alicia Roberts reports.