IMPD works to calm fears in Latino community

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.—Some IMPD officials are seeing firsthand how the national political climate could bleed into their community relationships.

Officer Candi Perry, IMPD’s Immigrant Outreach Specialist, says she received several calls Monday afternoon from Latino business owners on the northwest side, concerned about a large police presence at a nearby business.

“I got several phone calls about possible raids going on at a particular business here, one of the restaurants here on West 38th Street,” said Perry. “So I immediately started investigating and looking into what’s going on because they were very concerned.”

Quickly, Perry found that officers were at Jiallo’s restaurant for one of IMPD’s many “roving roll calls,” an initiative designed to make a district’s officers even more accessible to the people living and working there.

But as some immigrants, whether undocumented or here legally, struggle to separate fact from fiction concerning President Trump’s policies, that wasn’t what they saw at first glance.

Charles Garcia, chair of the Indiana Latino Institute’s board says he understands why.

“Under the current presidential administration—I mean it was in TIME magazine this week—there’s a fear factor that’s out into the population,” said Garcia.

Stephanie and Efra Morales, owners of La Casa de Los Mariscos, echoed that sentiment.

“Especially with everything that you’re hearing about on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, everything about the new Trump government, it does make a lot of Hispanics worry,” said Stephanie Morales. “A lot of things you hear may not be true, but they don’t know that.”

Officer Perry and a sergeant in the northwest district went door to door to separate fact from fiction about IMPD's role as immigration enforcement and who can participate in roving roll calls.

They explained IMPD isn't in the business of taking crime reports based on immigration status and anyone is welcome to ask for a roving roll call to increase community engagement with their local officers.

The Moraleses and most other business owners who were initially concerned, where relieved and even more optimistic about local police after Officer Perry's visit.

But Latino leaders like Garcia say there have been signs for months that the kind of fear they first felt could grow more widespread locally.

“Unfortunately what we’ve seen, this started back in October, was escalation of hate crimes,” said Charles Garcia.

For Garcia, the situation is disheartening.

Several years ago, Garcia, along with Citizens Energy, sponsored an IMPD liaison for the east side Latino community. He says the data shows it had an impact.

“Originally IMPD had zero participation in the meetings they would call with the Latino community,” said Garcia. “They would have five to six hundred people attend after the liaison was put in place.”

As engagement with police went up, he says crime rates within and against the community went down.

“Because of that, crimes were being reported and then the police knew where the crimes were happening and then they could respond accordingly, so the crime rate was reduced significantly,” said Garcia. “I’ve heard anywhere from 50 to 75 percent in one year because of the communication between the Latino community and IMPD.”

Now Garcia fears some of the progress over the last several years may be erased because of the political climate.

“The trust factor has to be established and that’s what was big,” said Garcia. “I’m very concerned about it. Very concerned.”

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