I am happy that the Gadsden County Sheriff's Office has taken the initiative to address the problems that have been rampant in the Hispanic community. For the past several years I have noticed instances of crimes against Hispanics have been on the rise. Also, what stands out in police reports is the phrase "no suspects and no witnesses." The victims refuse to provide information to authorities on how the crime occurred. There have been instances when a Hispanic victim who has been shot or stabbed will not provide even the basic information. Often, even if they can identify the perpetrator, they refuse to do so.
The problem, however, is fear. Fear that, if found to be out of compliance with documentation, they will be deported. So they run the risk of suffering bodily harm and having their money and other possessions stolen without the benefit of help from law enforcement.
When a segment of the population is not comfortable with law enforcement, as clearly many Hispanics are, they do everything they possibly can to stay away from them. This includes not reporting crimes and, in some cases, covering them up all together.
This is just what people who prey on Hispanics rely on. They know they can count on them to go away quietly and suffer the loss. When the tomato picking season is in full swing, the problem is magnified. The same holds true for women in domestic violence situations. They are afraid to call authorities when they have been beaten because they fear that involving authorities will lead to the deportation of the abuser, who is likely the breadwinner in the household.
The sheriff's department has taken the first step in protecting our growing Hispanic populations. People should feel that they are able to look to law enforcement and receive help. They should not have to worry whether someone will report them to immigration service.
The first step is to get the word out in the Hispanic community that it's not all right to be a victim and not report the crime. But first, the GCSO must make sure they are saying what they want to say the way they want to say it. There are so many dialects that no one wants to run the risk of offending someone.
GCSO is including the Hispanic community in the planning, which is smart since they don't have the personnel to make it work.
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