Houston Police Chief Alarmed By Decreased Crime Reporting By Hispanics

Chief Art Acevedo says reduced reporting of violent crimes tells him that Hispanic residents are fearful that interactions with the police could result in their being reported to federal immigration authorities.

By Alexandra HartApril 10, 2017 5:15 pm,

Last week Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo released data showing a concerning trend: the number of Hispanics reporting crime has been on the decline while the number of non-Hispanics reporting crime has increased.

The Houston Police Department found that the number of Hispanics reporting rape was down 42.8 percent from January to March of this year, compared to the first three months of 2016. There was also a 13 percent drop in Hispanics reporting other violent crimes. Yet violent crime reports from non-Hispanics increased by nearly 12 percent.

Acevedo says that these numbers don’t paint a picture of reduced crime in Houston. Rather, he views them as “cause for alarm.”

“I think it is indicative of a chilling effect on folks reporting crime and the sad thing is that some folks don’t realize that that’s not a good thing for all members of Texas cities and society,” Acevedo says. “A person that victimizes an undocumented immigrant today is going to victimize a citizen, a natural-born citizen or a lawful resident tomorrow.”

Acevedo says that the recent crime reporting data reveals that the department needs to increase its efforts to encourage people to trust local police, regardless of citizenship status.

“The only ones that should fear the Houston Police Department, or any police department that is focused on what matters most – and that’s public safety – are criminals, not the victims or the witnesses of the crime,” he says.

This trend is not unique to Houston. The Los Angeles Police Department found that reports of sexual assault and domestic violence made by Hispanic residents dropped by 25 and 10 percent, respectively. The Police Executive Research Forum, a police research and policy organization, studied this exact thing, and will release its findings in the coming weeks.

“I would not be surprised if we’re experiencing the same thing in every city that has large populations of immigrants,” Acevedo says.

Although the Houston Police Department cooperates with ICE detainer orders, Acevedo says that these only target people who have committed violent crimes.

“There is no sanctuary for people that are trying to commit violent crimes or breaking into people’s homes regardless of whether [they are] documented, undocumented naturally-born, naturalized-citizen, we don’t care,” he says. “If the only thing a person has committed is a violation of our immigration laws [and] they’re otherwise productive members of society and they don’t bother anybody, we’re not interested in them.”
Written by Molly Smith.