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Alan Ping-Lun Lai

2004 National Crime Victim Service Award | National Crime Victims’ Service Awards

Alan Ping-Lun Lai | National Crime Victim Service Award
Chinese Information and Service Center
Seattle, Washington

Alan Lai acts as a liaison between the international community in Seattle, Washington, and the law enforcement and criminal justice agencies that serve it. More than 50 languages, most of them various dialects of Chinese, are spoken in the Chinatown/International District, and many of the immigrants who live there are distrustful of law enforcement. 

Lai has played a critical role in helping that area's victims overcome cultural barriers that prevent them from seeking the help they need, and his service has been invaluable in helping law enforcement officials gain access to this closed community, where only a fraction of crimes are believed to be reported. 

Several cases illustrate his value to both victims and the criminal justice system. In 1995, Lai served as an interpreter during a hostage crisis in which two young Chinese males and one young Chinese female were kidnapped from their foster home by a New York street gang with ties to gangsters from China. The victims were beaten and tortured during the 9 days they were held captive; they were rescued on the day they were told they would be executed. 

The federal investigation of the incident revealed a connection between the Seattle kidnappings and another kidnapping in New York in which a male victim was shot in the head and a female victim was raped and killed. Fearing retaliation, and suspicious of the criminal justice system, the victims were reluctant to cooperate with investigators. Lai won their trust, and their participation resulted in the conviction of five defendants, all of whom received lengthy prison sentences. 

In 2002, Lai provided both interpretation and support services to victims in a human trafficking case. Chinese Snake Head gangsters had smuggled 18 people into Seattle, three of whom died en route. Lai organized counseling for the survivors, arranged for a memorial service for the dead victims, and coordinated a difficult negotiation with the Chinese consulate to return the remains of the deceased to China. 

Also that year, he provided interpretation and relocation assistance to young victims who were trafficked into the United States as part of an elaborate prostitution ring. In addition, he mediated a session with local and federal investigators and victims of a travel agency scam that helped close down the agency.