Friday, January 9, 2009

Police Ignored Pattern of Violence Against Latinos in Long Island

The attack by a group of teenage boys that led tothe death of Marcelo Lucero, an immigrant from Ecuador, was not simply an isolated incident, but part of a long pattern of violence against Latinos by the young men in the neighborhood.  The Times provides an important look into why many believe that the Police failed to notice a clear pattern of racially motivated violence.

From the Times article: 

The attacks were such an established pastime that the youths, who have pleaded not guilty, had a casual and derogatory term for it, “beaner hopping.” One of the youths told the authorities, “I don’t go out doing this very often, maybe once a week.”

That was not news to Latinos in Patchogue, who say that regular harassment, muggings and assaults have had them living in fear — 11 men told The New York Times of 13 attacks, nine of them in the past two years.

But the Suffolk County police said it was news to them.

“We hadn’t noticed this,” Richard Dormer, the Suffolk County police commissioner, said in an interview last month when asked about the attacks by groups of young men. “And that’s a concern to us.”

Mr. Orellana is one of many Latino residents who believe that Mr. Lucero would be alive today if the police had taken crimes against them more seriously and recognized them as symptoms of a larger problem. While some Latino immigrants say they are reluctant to report crimes because they are in the country illegally or fear the police will assume they are, they and their advocates believe the police did not see a pattern because they did not want to see one.

“I told people, here the authorities are waiting for a white to kill a Hispanic or a Hispanic to kill a white,” Mr. Orellana said. “They keep attacking and robbing, and nothing changes. There had to be a death, and the death was Lucero.”

Prosecutors say the teenagers charged in the attack on Mr. Lucero chased another Latino man and shot a BB gun at a third that day. But the problems began long before Mr. Lucero’s death. And by the men’s accounts, the series of attacks involved far more teenagers.

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