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Brian Kito is the current president of Little Tokyo Public Safety, also known as the Koban, and has been involved with the organization since 1991. The Koban has been keeping the community safe through their foot patrols and by building a relationship with the Los Angeles Police Department. Brian said, “we were getting a lot of attention [when it first started] because we were taking charge of problems that everyone was talking about but nobody could do anything about.” Currently, the Koban is fully-operated on a volunteer basis, taking calls in both Japanese and English six days a week. Keiro asked Brian what he sees is important for older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brian knows that as businesses and organizations begin to reopen, the older adults’ situation has not changed much as they continue to remain a vulnerable population. With a rather large older population in the Little Tokyo area, Brian stressed the importance for them to understand what they should and should not do. “Well me too, I’m over 60. They should know, including myself, how vulnerable they are,” Brian warned. “They should stay home as much as possible, but I understand if they have to go out to shopping, of course they should be the ones most careful about keeping the six foot distance, keeping masks on, keeping their hands clean.” He added that older adults should be extra diligent in following these protocols.
“It’s amplified for the elderly. I mean whatever rules that we observe as regular people on the business, it’s amplified more for elderly because they have more to lose. They are in such a [high] risk category to actually lose their lives” he stressed.
As regulations ease and businesses reopen, Brian urged the importance of taking action to stay safe. For example, if older adults find themselves in a situation where they cannot maintain safe physical distance at a store, he recommends leaving. “I mean there is no reason to be stubborn here,” Brian said. Additionally, he warned that older adults should not rely on strangers to be aware of their vulnerability. Although masks are required, not everyone in the public exhibits safe practices 100% of the time. Instead, older adults should proactively assess their situation. They should not be afraid to make decisions that prioritize their personal safety.
Watching out for safety goes both ways according to Brian. “If you’re over 60, you have to take extra effort to keep yourself healthy and safe. If you’re under 60 and you see an older adult, you should take the responsibility to make sure that you give space for them.” He pointed out that those who are asymptomatic are the reasons for taking such precaution. “It’s not like someone is sniffling or sneezing, and sometimes you don’t have fever so it’s something that older adults and the entire community have to keep in mind, that we are not over [this] yet.”
In addition to COVID-19, Brian pointed out other things to be prepared for in our lives, such as earthquakes and natural disasters. “Once [the virus] is over, we can’t drop our guard, there’s other things we need to be prepared for to keep ourselves safe. We saw how toilet paper became so scarce. It’s simple as that. That can make your life uncomfortable and put you in a panic. You know it’s not that hard to keep extra prepared,” warned Brian.
Around 2005, the Koban began focusing on emergency preparedness to educate communities on the importance of being prepared for natural disasters. From having 72 hours’ worth of food and water prepared, and medication to arranging an emergency meeting spot with your family and loved ones, Brian shared that preparedness in general is important to consider as more things open up.
Lastly, Brian shared that Koban also acts as an information hub for community members. Sometimes their assistance goes beyond the local community. “We once took a call as far as San Diego,” he said. Koban received a few calls after COVID-19 started. For now, the Koban continues to provide support over the phone in English and Japanese, as well as assistance from the front door (guests are not allowed inside). Brian welcomes anyone to contact the Koban in English or Japanese with safety inquiries.
Koban:Phone number – 213.613.191110:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
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