Immigration Concerns Prompt Lower Crime Reporting for Latinos, Report Finds

A new report found 44 percent of Latinos report they are less likely to contact police if they have been the victim of a crime

Latinos are less likely to report crimes – even when they're the victims – for fear of immigration enforcement, according to the results of a survey released Tuesday.

The report looked at attitudes toward law enforcement among Latinos in four counties, including Los Angeles County. It was issued in light of the trend of increased local police involvement in immigration enforcement, its author said.

"We found pretty staggering levels of fear and mistrust among Latinos in the four counties where the survey was done," said Nik Theodore an associate professor or urban planning and policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Theodore, who wrote the 28-page report – which was sponsored by nonprofit think tank PolicyLink – pointed to the study's finding that 44 percent of Latinos report they are less likely to contact police if they have been the victim of a crime because they fear law enforcement inquiries about immigration status.

For undocumented immigrant Latinos specifically, figure goes up to 70 percent, according to the study, titled "Insecure Communities: Latino Perceptions of Police Involvement in Immigration Enforcement."

Theodore said that shows a "chilling effect" in the Latino community on their contact with police because of increasing collaboration between local agencies and federal authorities over immigration.

The effect is an "unintended consequence" of evolving immigration enforcement policies that may be causing a public safety problem, Theodore said.

"These policies seem to be driving a wedge between local police and those communities," Theodore said. "The first step is documenting the problem."

The Obama administration, which is pushing for immigration reform, has seen a record number of deportations. Deportations are on track to reach 2 million under Obama by the end of this year, according to the New York Times.

The survey, conducted between Nov. 17 and Dec. 10, 2012, was based on a randomized phone survery of 2,004 Latinos in the four counties surrounding four major cities: Cook County (Chicago), Harris County (Houston), Los Angeles County, and Maricopa County (Phoenix).

It also found 45 percent of Latinos are less likely to voluntarily offer information about crimes, and 45 percent are less likely to report a crime because of fear of questions about immigration status.

Theodore noted that the attitude transcends geography – meaning that even in areas where police do not ask about immigration status, such as the city of Los Angeles, Latinos are still worried about such questions.

"To me the big story is how similar the feelings of isolation and mistrust are across the four sites," Theodore said.

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