Po­lice note drop in crime re­port­ing

Im­mi­gra­tion de­bate may be a link where res­i­dents are un­doc­u­mented

The Washington Post Sunday - - POL­I­TICS & THE NA­TION - BY LIND­SEY BEVER lind­sey.bever@wash­post.com

Po­lice de­part­ments from Cal­i­for­nia to New Jersey have re­ported a de­crease in crime re­port­ing in pre­dom­i­nantly His­panic neigh­bor­hoods, which some lo­cal law en­force­ment of­fi­cials think could be re­lated to the na­tion’s im­pas­sioned im­mi­gra­tion de­bate.

Law en­force­ment of­fi­cials say the de­bate might be af­fect­ing their re­la­tion­ship with mi­nor­ity com­mu­ni­ties, and they are es­pe­cially con­cerned that un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants are be­com­ing more hes­i­tant to en­gage with po­lice and re­port crimes be­cause they fear de­por­ta­tion.

“It looks like they’re go­ing fur­ther into the shad­ows, and there ap­pears to be a chill­ing ef­fect in the re­port­ing of vi­o­lent crime by mem­bers of the His­panic com­mu­nity,” Hous­ton Po­lice Chief Art Acevedo said.

Acevedo re­cently an­nounced that new data shows a 13 per­cent de­crease in vi­o­lent-crime re­port­ing by His­pan­ics in Hous­ton dur­ing the first three months of 2017, com­pared with the first three months of 2016; it also shows a 12 per­cent in­crease in vi­o­lent-crime re­port­ing by non-His­pan­ics. Hous­ton saw a 43 per­cent drop in the num­ber of His­pan­ics re­port­ing rape and sex­ual as­sault, while there was an 8 per­cent rise in the num­ber of non-His­pan­ics re­port­ing such crimes. There was also a 12 per­cent de­cline in re­ports of ag­gra­vated as­sault and a 12 per­cent de­cline in re­ports of rob­bery among the His­panic pop­u­la­tion, the chief said.

Po­lice say the prob­lem is twofold: Not only might un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants be too ner­vous to re­port vi­o­lent crimes against them, but they might also be less will­ing to re­port crimes they wit­ness.

“What­ever the cause is, it is not good for the safety of all peo­ple within this city and within this re­gion,” Acevedo said.

The con­cern about crime re­port­ing in His­panic com­mu­ni­ties comes in the months after Pres­i­dent Trump be­gan his ef­fort to ramp up im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment, in­clud­ing sign­ing ex­ec­u­tive or­ders to build a bor­der wall with Mex­ico, add Bor­der Pa­trol agents, cre­ate more de­ten­tion cen­ters and pull fed­eral fund­ing from “sanc­tu­ary cities” that do not co­op­er­ate with U.S. au­thor­i­ties on de­por­ta­tion. Emo­tions over im­mi­gra­tion is­sues swelled over the week­end when Texas Gov. Greg Ab­bott (R) signed Se­nate Bill 4, which bans sanc­tu­ary cities across the Lone Star State.

Chuck Wexler, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Po­lice Ex­ec­u­tive Re­search Fo­rum, said it is still too early for some cities to de­ter­mine what im­pact the im­mi­gra­tion de­bate has had, but he said that he has been hear­ing from some po­lice chiefs who say the “na­tional mood” about im­mi­gra­tion has made un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants re­luc­tant to re­port crimes.

“The rea­son po­lice chiefs are so con­cerned is that an un­re­ported do­mes­tic vi­o­lence case can be­come a re­ported homi­cide if po­lice are not alerted,” Wexler said. “It’s only a few months since the na­tional per­spec­tive has changed, but I think most po­lice chiefs would agree that for those who have large im­mi­grant com­mu­ni­ties, this will def­i­nitely make them ret­i­cent about in­ter­act­ing with the po­lice if they’re in­volved with wit­ness­ing a crime or are a vic­tim.”

In March, the Los An­ge­les Po­lice Depart­ment re­ported a nearly 10 per­cent drop from last year in the re­port­ing of spousal abuse and a 25 per­cent drop in the re­port­ing of rape among His­panic com­mu­ni­ties.

“While there is no di­rect ev­i­dence that the de­cline is re­lated to con­cerns within the His­panic com­mu­nity re­gard­ing im­mi­gra­tion, the depart­ment be­lieves de­por­ta­tion fears may be pre­vent­ing His­panic mem­bers of the com­mu­nity from re­port­ing when they are vic­tim­ized,” the depart­ment said in a state­ment March 21.

Po­lice in New Jersey’s Cam­den County say they have seen a 6 per­cent de­crease so far this year in ser­vice calls from com­mu­ni­ties that are pre­dom­i­nantly made up of un­doc­u­mented res­i­dents.

“The fear is pal­pa­ble, and it’s man­i­fested in how the com­mu­nity has al­tered its be­hav­ior or, I should say, it’s al­tered its re­la­tion­ship with the po­lice depart­ment in a re­luc­tance to com­mu­ni­cate with us,” Cam­den County Po­lice Chief Scott Thom­son said. Thom­son said that when it comes to de­por­ta­tion woes, peo­ple in those com­mu­ni­ties are not dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing among lo­cal, state and fed­eral of­fi­cers. “They’re go­ing to look at all po­lice in the same light.”

Wexler said he ex­pected other po­lice agen­cies to see sim­i­lar trends.

“The fear in the com­mu­nity is real, and the in­creased en­force­ment en­vi­ron­ment is real,” said Nick Katz, se­nior man­ager of le­gal ser­vices at the im­mi­gra­tion ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tion CASA de Mary­land. “We’ve def­i­nitely seen an in­crease in im­mi­gra­tion raids. We’ve seen an in­crease in what we con­sider to be ques­tion­able tac­tics and essen­tially un­con­sti­tu­tional tac­tics on the part of ICE, en­gag­ing in ra­cial pro­fil­ing. And I think that type of ac­tiv­ity will dis­sem­i­nate out into the com­mu­nity and make peo­ple afraid to en­gage with law en­force­ment gen­er­ally.”

Katz said pro­grams such as “287(g),” a sec­tion in the U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Na­tion­al­ity Act that al­lows the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity to dep­u­tize lo­cal law en­force­ment agen­cies to carry out im­mi­gra­tion laws, are “ex­tremely destruc­tive to so­cial fab­ric of the com­mu­nity.” He said such agree­ments drive a wedge be­tween po­lice and their His­panic com­mu­ni­ties.

Some law en­force­ment agen­cies that do par­tic­i­pate in pro­grams such as 287(g) have noted, how­ever, that the pur­pose is not to go out and search for im­mi­grants to de­port.

Etowah County Sher­iff Todd En­trekin told CBS af­fil­i­ate WIAT ear­lier this year that his deputies in north­east Alabama “don’t go out on the street and look and pick you up be­cause of the color of your skin or your na­tion­al­ity.” Sher­iff Ir­win Carmichael of the Meck­len­burg County Sher­iff ’s Of­fice in Char­lotte said his deputies do not get in­volved in im­mi­gra­tion mat­ters un­til some­one is ar­rested, charged and taken to jail, ac­cord­ing to the Char­lotte Ob­server.

And de­spite the re­cent shift some po­lice chiefs say they have seen in their His­panic com­mu­ni­ties, Jack­son County Sher­iff A. J. “Andy” Loud­er­back, whose depart­ment par­tic­i­pates in 287(g), said he has “not no­ticed any wa­ver­ing” in the re­la­tion­ship with his com­mu­nity, which is south­west of Hous­ton. More than 31 per­cent of Jack­son County is His­panic or Latino, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. cen­sus.

“In the ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties here, we’re not see­ing any­thing chang­ing at all,” Loud­er­back said. “I see busi­ness as usual here.”

Jim Pasco, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Fra­ter­nal Or­der of Po­lice of­fi­cers’ union, said he has not seen ev­i­dence of a de­cline in crime re­port­ing in mi­nor­ity com­mu­ni­ties and cau­tioned against draw­ing con­clu­sions from the pre­lim­i­nary data.

“Trends in crime and crim­i­nal jus­tice some­times take years to de­velop, and, in fact, that’s why at times in our his­tory we’ve been caught be­hind the curve when a crime wave sud­denly erupts be­cause it’s come on very grad­u­ally, and when it got there, no­body saw it com­ing,” he said.

But Acevedo, the Hous­ton po­lice chief, said he asked his depart­ment to pull the statis­tics be­cause “when th­ese types of de­bates over im­mi­gra­tion rage, it does have a chill­ing ef­fect.”


CASA in Action and Ser­vice Em­ploy­ees In­ter­na­tional Union Lo­cal 32BJ protest anti-im­mi­gra­tion ac­tions with a D.C. march. Gus­tavo Tor­res of CASA raises a fist; the union’s Jamie Con­tr­eras is at right.

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