LatinoJustice PRLDEF Calls Upon DOJ to Investigate Suffolk County Police

May 21, 2009
Contact: John Garcia, Director of Communications (212) 739-7513

LatinoJustice PRLDEF has called upon the U.S. Department of Justice to start an independent investigation of the Suffolk County Police Department, alleging that the department has discriminated against Latinos by failing to fully investigate attacks against them and by instituting polices that discourage Latinos from reporting crimes.

In an earlier letter to the DOJ, LatinoJustice listed a multitude of crimes recently committed against Latinos in Suffolk County, amid what has been called an epidemic of anti-Latino hate crimes. Most of these crimes and the failure of Suffolk County Police to make any arrests came to light only after Marcelo Lucero was killed by a group of men that targeted Latinos.

Now, six months later, not one single arrest has been made in the reported crimes other than the variety of charges brought against those charged with Mr. Lucero’s murder.

“The community has come forward with documented incidents of hate crimes against them and the police have yet to make a single arrest other than those against the alleged murderers of Mr. Lucero,” said Foster Maer, Senior Attorney for LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “These perpetrators still roam the streets and the community is living in fear. The police should be protecting people, not fostering a climate of fear.”

Soon after Lucero’s murder, LatinoJustice PRLDEF and other Latino advocacy groups were inundated with calls from other Latino residents of Suffolk County who said they also had been victims of attacks. The majority had reported the attacks to police, but no arrests had been made.

Soon after meeting with LatinoJustice attorneys and members of the community, the DOJ opened a formal criminal investigation into those unsolved crimes.

The second basis for LatinoJustice PRLDEF’s complaint against Suffolk County police is that they have had a policy of asking crime victims about their immigration status and that by doing so they have discouraged Latinos from reporting crimes. This has allowed crimes to fester unsolved, as demonstrated above, in the Latino communities across Suffolk County.

Hate crimes against Latinos are on the rise across the United States.

In 2007, local police reported to the FBI that there were 830 victims of anti-Hispanic crimes in 595 incidents around the nation. Both of these numbers represent increases over the previous year and surpass previous highs dating back to when annual reports were first mandated by the Hate Crimes Statistics Act. In 2007, Hispanics comprised 61.7 percent of victims of crimes motivated by a bias toward the victims’ ethnicity or national origin. In 2004, the comparable figure was 51.5 percent.

Experts agree that these statistics under represent the actual number of hate crimes committed against Latinos because many Latinos are afraid to report any crimes to the police for fear of immigration consequences.

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