• ×

    Latino Populations and Crime in America

    1 / 2
    Currently, many members of Latino populations who live near crime and drugs feel that the law does a good job of protecting them and treats them fairly.
    2 / 2
    “Latino Stats,” by Idelisse Malavé and Esti Giordani, catalogs the inequities that face Latino communities and documents Latinos growing power and influence on American life.

    Latinos are the largest and fastest growing group of ethnic minorites in the country, yet many still continue to fight for their status as Americans. Latino Stats (The New Press, 2015), by Idelisse Malavé and Esti Giordani, cuts through the rhetoric and highlights the reality and spectrum of Latino life in the United States.This excerpt, from the section “Criminal Justice,” provides statistics on how Latino populations are affected by crime in America.

    Nearly half of convicted federal offenders are Latinos. With so many Latinos in the criminal justice system, it is astonishing that the FBI, the agency responsible for national crime statistics, has not collected data over the years by ethnicity. Without that data, it is difficult to determine the full impact of the criminal justice system on the 53 million Latinos living in this country. Recently, in the face of criticism, the FBI announced that it would begin reporting on ethnicity in its annual Uniform Crime Report. Even with existing threads of data, it is clear that Latinos, particularly Latino men, are overrepresented in the criminal justice system, funneled out of their communities and over borders, and separated from their families. Surprisingly, Latino communities, living within walking distance of crime and drugs, and with residents frequently stopped and questioned by local and federal law enforcement, still have confidence in this justice system. Many Latinos believe that law enforcement officers actually do a good job of protecting them and that the courts treat them fairly. As more and more data surfaces, will their confidence erode?

    In states with large Latino populations, Latinos have disproportionately high arrest rates. Latinos are much more likely than White Americans to get arrested and account for a disproportionate share of all felony and misdemeanor arrests. Latino children are arrested at alarming rates in states such as Texas and California.

    Many Latinos live in neighborhoods where they feel unsafe. With high rates of gang participation and with homicide as a leading cause of death, more than one in three Latinos report that they live within a mile of areas that they are scared to walk in at night. Yet Latinos report being victims of violent crime and property crime, such as burglary, at lower rates.

    Latinos are surprisingly confident in the criminal justice system. Despite being stopped and questioned by the police with inflated frequency, high incarceration rates, and minimal representation in law enforcement and the legal professions, many Latinos still feel that their local police do a good job enforcing the law and that U.S. courts treat Latinos fairly.

    Latino men are much more likely than White men, but only half as likely as Black men, to serve time in prison. Latino boys also face high levels of incarceration, particularly in states with large Latino populations. California and Texas alone imprison the majority of incarcerated Latino youth in the United States.

    Latinos account for almost half of all documented gang members in the United States. Despite these high numbers, only 3 percent of young Latinos aged sixteen to twenty-five reported that they are currently, or have been in, a gang.

    Nearly half of convicted federal offenders are Latino. Almost nine out of ten Latino federal offenders were convicted of one of two offenses: immigration and/or drug trafficking related crimes. The number of federal immigration cases increased by 97 percent in the last decade.

    How Many Latinos Are Arrested?

    • The FBI, the primary source for arrest data, has little information on Latino arrests. A few states, despite FBI guidelines, do track arrest information on Latinos.
    • Latinos accounted for 40 percent of all felony and misdemeanor arrests in California and 36 percent of all arrests in Texas, two states with large Latino populations that do track ethnicity.
    • In New York, Latinos are almost four times more likely than Whites to get arrested.
    • Of all Latinos, 15 percent say that they or someone in their immediate family has been arrested within the last five years, and nearly 25 percent of Latinos aged eighteen to twenty-nine shared this experience.
    • African American and Latino motorists are three times more likely to be searched than White motorists and are more likely to be ticketed.

    How Many Latino Youth Are Arrested?

    • At a comparable rate to Whites, 25 percent of second-generation Latinos were arrested within the last year.
    • There are stark differences between immigrant and second-generation Latino youth offenders across the country. The crime rate of immigrant Latino youth is lower than that of second-generation youth. About 25 percent of second-generation youth have been convicted of committing a crime within the last year, compared to 17 percent of immigrant Latino youth.
    • Latinos make up 50 percent of all juveniles arrested in California.
    • The majority of Latino youth arrested in California were arrested for misdemeanor violations.

    How Many Latinos Are Victimized by Crime and Violence?

    • The rate of violent crime victimization for Latinos is 24.5 per 1,000 persons age twelve or older, slightly lower than the rate for Whites (25.2 per 1,000), and well below the rate for African Americans (34.2 per 1,000).
    • From 1994 to 2011 the rate of burglaries decreased by at least 50 percent across all American households. Latinos saw the greatest decline (67 percent.) from 76 to 24.9 victimizations per 1,000 households.
    • Homicide falls within the top ten causes of death for Latinos aged one to fifty-four. For Latinos aged fifteen to thirty-four, homicide by a firearm was the second highest cause of death after motor vehicle accidents.
    • Of all reported hate crimes, 7 percent target victims due to an anti-Latino bias.
    • Of hate crimes, 85 percent are ethnically and racially motivated.
    • A smaller percentage of Latinos (5 percent) and African Americans (5 percent) are victims of identity theft than Whites (7 percent). Across all ethnic groups, those with higher incomes ($75,000+) are more likely to be the victims of these crimes.

    What do Latinos Have to Say About How They Are Affected by Crime?

    • More than one in three Latinos report that there are areas within a mile of their home in which they are scared to walk home at night.
    • A quarter of Latinos indicated that they or an immediate family member had been questioned by the police in the previous five years.
    • Latino victims are less likely than Whites or African Americans to report property crime incidents such as burglary and motor vehicle theft and personal crimes such as rape and aggravated assault to the police.
    • Though Latinos are less likely to report crimes to law enforcement authorities, over three-quarters of Latinos say that if they were a victim of a violent crime, they would definitely report it to the police.
    • Native-born Latinos report being victimized by a crime in the last five years at rates twice as high as immigrant Latinos.

    How Confident Are Latinos in Law Enforcement and the Broader Criminal Justice System and How Do They Interact with Law Enforcement?

    • Six in ten native-born Latinos compared to four in ten immigrant Latinos have a fair amount of confidence that the U.S. court system will treat them fairly.
    • Six in ten of all Latinos feel confident that local police in their communities will do a good job upholding the law, particularly in dealing with gangs and gang violence.
    • 45 percent of Latinos believe that they are treated fairly by law enforcement compared to 74 percent of Whites and 37 percent of African Americans.
    • Though many Latinos are confident in their local police departments, 47 percent have very little confidence that the police will avoid using excessive force on suspects.
    • A quarter of Latinos indicated that the police had questioned them or an immediate family member in the previous five years.
    • According to the U.S. Department of Justice, overall traffic stops were a more common form of police contact with Latinos than street stops. Among African American drivers, 13 percent were stopped compared to 10 percent of Latinos and 10 percent of Whites.
    • In the first three quarters of 2013, New Yorkers were stopped and frisked 179,063 times—29 percent of those stopped were Latino and 56 percent were African American. Nearly 90 percent of those stopped were innocent.
    • Eight in ten Latinos believe that their local police should not be involved in identifying undocumented immigrants.

    How Many Latinos Work in Law Enforcement?

    • Police and sheriff patrol officers are 73 percent White, nearly three times the share of Latino (13.8 percent) and African American (12.8 percent) officers combined.
    • Latinos account for 22 percent of local police forces serving populations over one million.
    • Although the FBI still primarily employs White personnel, 7 percent of FBI special agents and 5.9 percent of professional staff are Latino.
    • The Department of Homeland Security personnel is comprised of only 20.9 percent Latinos, although the majority of immigration-related crimes are committed along the Mexican border, which is heavily populated by Latinos. Nonetheless, the Department of Homeland Security still employs the most Latinos of any federal agency.
    • Though accounting for 17 percent of the national population and 95 percent of the population in border towns like Laredo, Texas, Latinos account for only 10.8 percent of all customs and border protection personnel.
    • In New York City, Latinos make up over 25 percent of the police force. African Americans make up 16 percent and Whites 52 percent of the force.
    • With 17,153 sworn officers, Puerto Rico boasts the second largest police department in the United States.

    How Are Latinos Represented in the Legal Profession?

    • According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Latinos make up 3.4 percent of U.S. lawyers.
    • Latinas make up 1.04 percent of all the lawyers in the United States.
    • Of U.S. judges, magistrates, and judicial workers, 4.5 percent are Latino.
    • Of U.S. judges, magistrates, and judicial workers, 2 percent are Latina women.
    • Latinos make up only 7.8 percent of the justice department personnel.
    • In line with this trend of underrepresentation in legal professions, only 3.1 percent of law professors are Latino.

    What Are Offense and Sentencing Trends for Latinos?

    • Though only 17 percent of the total U.S. population is Latino, over 48 percent of convicted federal offenders are Latino, significantly higher than the share of Whites (27.5 percent) and African Americans (20.4 percent).
    • 86 percent of Latino federal offenders were convicted of one of two federal offenses: immigration and drug trafficking related crimes.
    • Of the 1,341,804 prisoners serving sentences under state jurisdiction, 282,353 (21 percent) are Latino and 509,577 are African American (38 percent). The majority of Latino prisoners (57 percent) were convicted of violent crimes.
    • The majority of the 162,489 Latino violent crime offenders serving time in a state prison were convicted of aggravated assault (13.5 percent), murder (13.4 percent), manslaughter (13.4 percent), and rape/ sexual assault (12.7 percent).
    • 13.6 percent of Latino prisoners under state jurisdiction are convicted of property-related crimes, with burglary accounting for 7.8 percent of all convictions.

    How Many Latinos Are in Prisons and Jails?

    • Although Latinos are 17 percent of the U.S. population with a large share of children under eighteen, 22 percent of inmates in federal, state, and local prisons/jails are Latino.
    • Latino men have a one-in-six chance of facing imprisonment compared to White men’s one-in-seventeen chance. Racial disparities are more severe for African American men who face a one-in-three chance of incarceration.
    • In 2010, the Latino male incarceration rate was more than seventeen times greater than that of Latina females; 327,200 Latino males and 18,700 Latina females were incarcerated in state and federal prisons.

    How Many Latino Youth Are in Prisons and Jails?

    • Around 22 percent of youth held in private or public residential detention facilities nationwide are Latino.
    • Latino youth are 40 percent more likely to be waived to adult court than White youth and are admitted to adult jails at 1.4 times the rate of Whites.
    • One-quarter (24 percent) of incarcerated Latino youth are held in an adult prison or jail where they face high risks of suicide and sexual abuse, significant educational disconnection, and a high likelihood of recidivism.
    • Latino youth are incarcerated for the following offenses:
    23 percent of violent offenses
    21 percent of property offenses
    26 percent of drug offenses
    24 percent of public order offenses
    26 percent of technical offenses
    10 percent of status offenses
    • California places more Latino youth in residential custody facilities than any other state in the United States. Texas comes in second with about half as many incarcerated Latino children as California. Together, the two states hold 58 percent of all incarcerated Latino youth in the country.
    • Around 25 percent of all juveniles in short-term juvenile detention centers are Latino, while 42 percent are African American and 32 percent are White.
    • Latinos account for 26 percent of youth held in long-term juvenile facilities, while 40 percent are African American and 32 percent are White.

    What Is the Impact of Prison Violence on Latino Inmates?

    • Non-heterosexual Latinos were almost twice as likely as Whites to be sexually assaulted by prison staff, 5.9 percent and 3.2 percent respectively. The rate of sexual assault on non-heterosexual African American inmates by prison staff was slightly higher (6.2 percent).
    • 7.5 percent of Latino incarcerated youth have been sexually assaulted by another youth or correctional facility staff member while under custody.

    How Many Latinos Are on Death Row or Have Been Executed?

    • Of people on death row, nearly 13 percent are Latinos, 42 percent are African Americans, and slightly more than 43 percent are White.*
    • Of prisoners on death row in California, 175 or 24 percent are Latino, compared to 88 prisoners or 30 percent in Texas.
    • Since the 1976 reinstatement of capital punishment, 1,325 people have been executed in this country. Nearly 8 percent of executed prisoners were Latino, compared to 34 percent African American and 56 percent White.
    • Of the victims of all executed defendants, 76 percent were White, 15 percent were African American, and 6 percent were Latino. Of White defendants’ victims, 94 percent were White; 34 percent of African American defendants’ victims were African American and 60 percent were White; and 54 percent of Latino defendants’ victims were Latino and 44 percent White.

    What Portion of People Arrested and Convicted of Drug-Related Offenses are Latino?

    • Around 16 percent of Latino prisoners under state jurisdiction were convicted of drug related crimes, compared to 18 percent of African Americans and 14 percent of Whites.
    • Latinos accounted for over 45 percent of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) federal arrests, compared to only 26 percent for Whites and 25 percent for African Americans.
    • Over 45 percent of drug offenders convicted and sentenced in federal court are Latino, 25.9 percent are African American, and 25.3 percent are White.
    • Though Latinos account for a majority of drug-related federal sentences, African Americans account for more than 85 percent of crack cocaine–related federal sentences, while Whites made up 48 percent of methamphetamine offenders. Crack cocaine defendants are sentenced on average to 78 months compared to cannabis offenders (65 percent Latino) who serve less than a third of that time.

    How Active are Latinos in Gangs?

    • Latinos account for almost half (46 percent) of all documented gang members in the United States. African Americans make up 35 percent, and only 11 percent are White.
    • Despite the high numbers of documented Latino gang members, only 3 percent of young Latinos aged sixteen to twenty-five report that they are now or have ever been in a gang.

    What Is the Impact of U.S. Immigration Law Enforcement on Latinos?

    • The number of federal immigration cases has increased by 97 percent in the last decade.
    • Of all individuals detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), 88 percent are nationals of Mexico (67 percent), Guatemala (9 percent), Honduras (6.2 percent), and El Salvador (5.5 percent).
    • The vast majority of immigration-related apprehensions (96 percent) occurred in southwest border states, with the largest share of apprehensions (36 percent) in Tucson, Arizona.
    • According to 2009 data, 94 percent of defendants accused of immigration-related federal crimes were detained prior to disposition of their cases, outpacing defendants detained for violent crimes (86.9 percent) and weapon offenses (82.3 percent).
    • Of individuals charged with immigration-related crimes by the federal government, 99 percent plead guilty.
    • Of individuals detained for immigration related offenses, 48 percent have a criminal record, about 80 percent for non-immigration-related offenses. The majority of them are from Mexico (77 percent), Guatemala (6 percent), Honduras (6 percent), and El Salvador (5 percent).
    • Immigrants with criminal records removed from the United States have been convicted of:
    Drug related convictions (22 percent);
    Criminal trafficking (23 percent); and
    Immigration related offenses (20 percent).


    *Note that some states are excluded from this tabulation: Alaska, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. [Connecticut and New Mexico repealed the death penalty prospectively. The men already sentenced in each state remain under sentence of death.]

    This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from Latino Stats: American Hispanics by the Numbers, by Idelisse Malavé and Esti Giordani, and published by The New Press, 2015.

    Published on Jan 27, 2015


    In-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.