His­pan­ics re­port­ing crime less, but so are oth­ers

No ev­i­dence in Austin of chill­ing ef­fect from im­mi­gra­tion sweeps.

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE - By Philip Jankowski pjankowski@states­man.com

Austin has seen a de­crease in re­ported crimes so far this year across all de­mo­graph­ics, in­clud­ing His­pan­ics, which po­lice lead­ers say is a “nor­mal fluc­tu­a­tion” and not nec­es­sar­ily a re­ac­tion to re­cent fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion sweeps.

Com­pared with the same pe­riod last year, ci­ty­wide crime re­ports showed a 5.7 per­cent drop in the first two months of the year. The data for Lati­nos nearly matched that trend, as Austin po­lice saw an over­all 5.6 per­cent de­cline in crime re­ports from that group.

But the data set for Lati­nos isn’t large enough for the Austin Po­lice De­part­ment to draw any con­clu­sions, es­pe­cially be­cause it co­in­cides with an over­all drop in crime so far in 2017.

“What I am see­ing looks like nor­mal fluc­tu­a­tion in crime that we would see over a num­ber of years as op­posed to a re­duc­tion based on fear of re­port­ing and fear

of in­ter­ac­tion with po­lice,” As­sis­tant Po­lice Chief Joseph Cha­con said.

He also reached out to many in­di­vid­u­als within the de­part­ment to see if their in­ter­ac­tions with the im­mi­grant com­mu­nity have changed in re­cent weeks.

“What I over­whelm­ingly heard back was ‘no,’ they did not hear of any big change in in­ter­ac­tions,” Cha­con said “They are not see­ing and I am sure not hear­ing that peo­ple aren’t co­op­er­at­ing be­cause of fear of im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials.”

Cha­con’s find­ings might al­lay some fears that Austin’s im­mi­grant com­mu­nity would re­port fewer crimes af­ter fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion agents re­cently con­ducted sweeps re­sult­ing in more than 50 ar­rests.

Some in the im­mi­grant com­mu­nity fear that po­lice would re­port crime vic­tims to Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment if po­lice dis­cov­ered they were in the coun­try il­le­gally.

But Austin po­lice have said that they don’t ini­ti­ate in­ves­ti­ga­tions into a per­son’s im­mi­gra­tion or citizen sta­tus.

When Travis County Sheriff Sally Her­nan­dez an­nounced new lim­i­ta­tions in Jan­uary on fed­eral re­quests to de­tain un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants in the Travis County Jail, she cited public trust as a fac­tor in cre­at­ing the pol­icy. Her­nan­dez said she was wor­ried that giv­ing fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion agents un­re­stricted ac­cess to in­mates would erode the years of trust and co­op­er­a­tion built up be­tween her of­fi­cers and the im­mi­grant com­mu­nity.

Those con­cerns are shared among some law en­force­ment of­fi­cials na­tion­wide. Last week, the Los An­ge­les po­lice chief said re­ports of sex­ual as­sault and fam­ily vi­o­lence among Lati­nos had dropped, amid fears that in­ter­act­ing with po­lice would re­sult in de­por­ta­tion, the Los An­ge­les Times re­ported.

In Austin, the num­ber of sex­ual as­saults and fam­ily vi­o­lence re­ports in which Lati­nos are vic­tims also is down from 2016.

The leader of Austin po­lice’s union also said he hasn’t heard of Lati­nos in­ter­act­ing with po­lice dif­fer­ently or less of­ten than since the ICE sweeps.

Austin Po­lice As­so­ci­a­tion Pres­i­dent Ken Casa­day said what con­cerns him, and of­fi­cers on the streets, is a re­cent spate of vi­o­lent crimes that doesn’t seem to have ended.

A shoot­ing Sun­day marked Austin’s eighth homi­cide of the year. At this time in 2016, Austin po­lice were in­ves­ti­gat­ing three killings. Last year ended with po­lice log­ging the most homi­cides in years and an over­all 10 per­cent in­crease in vi­o­lent crime.

“It seems like we have a shoot­ing al­most ev­ery day,” Casa­day said.

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