When Reporting Crime Doesn’t Pay
Thieves and violent criminals frequently target Hispanic immigrants in U.S. cities, zeroing in on a community that, due to an often justified distrust of law enforcement, is unlikely to report being victimized. Especially vulnerable are people who are undocumented.
“Day laborers operate in a shadow economy, where they are often paid under the table, in cash,” writes Urbanite (June 2009). Those who are here illegally “are reluctant to use U.S. banks or report crime to the police for fear of deportation.” And in some neighborhoods, come Friday—payday—“predators know their pockets are full.”
Even though some undocumented immigrants are eligible for temporary visas while they assist with police investigations, the government has been slow to grant these “U visas” and has done little to educate people about the program.
Select cities are working on ways to restore Hispanics’ trust in police and encourage them to report crimes. An advocacy group in Birmingham, Alabama, established a 24-hour Spanish-language telephone line for crime victims. In Baltimore, a bilingual advocate helps immigrants navigate the legal system. In Fairfax County, Virginia, the police chief holds “citizen police academies” that “teach immigrants about what police do, how to report crimes, and how to file complaints against officers if necessary.”