Sexual Assault Reporting In L.A.'s Latino Community Down 25% Amid Fears Of Immigration Enforcement

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LAPD Chief Charlie Beck at Tuesday's press conference. (Photo by Julia Wick/LAist)

On Tuesday, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said reporting of sexual assault and domestic violence by members of L.A.'s Latino community had dropped significantly during the first months of 2017, compared to last year.

According to Beck, sexual assault reporting by the Latino community is down 25% this year to date, a figure that "far exceeds the reductions of any other demographic group." Beck also said that Latino reporting of domestic violence was down by 10% this year to date, a reduction that also outpaces any other demographic group. The drops are widely attributed to fear of immigration enforcement, with Beck calling them "an outlier, in that no other demographic group has been affected by this."

"This is not a minor issue; this is the safety of the city," Beck said.

"Imagine a young woman—imagine your daughter, sister, mother, your friend—not reporting a sexual assault because they are afraid that their family will be torn apart," the police chief said, standing with Mayor Eric Garcetti at a press conference where Garcetti signed an executive directive barring L.A. police and civil servants from taking part in federal immigration enforcement activities. "That's not what L.A. is about. That is certainly not what this mayor is about. And it's not what the Los Angeles Police Department is about."

"Today, hardworking, law-abiding immigrants are fearful for their safety and anxious about being targeted and having their families torn apart, and we understand why," Garcetti said Tuesday. "Under this new administration, we are all seeing policies, executive orders and rhetoric that are divisive, mean-spirited and often unconstitutional. And we see this impact all across our city," the mayor said, adding that the Lincoln Heights youth center where the press conference was held had itself seen a 34% drop in enrollment so far that year.

"We're seeing similar declines at art centers, at parks, libraries, and senior centers around the city. We're seeing less people reporting crimes. And we believe that many local families are keeping their kids home, and are backing off of engaging with our law enforcement officials and our public safety officials because they are afraid of what they believe could happen," the mayor continued. "I want to be very clear on this, that is unacceptable in our Los Angeles."

The greater Los Angeles area is home to an estimated 1 million undocumented individuals. Fears have certainly been heightened since November 9, and last month's ICE sweeps, along with instances of ICE identifying themselves as police officers in Los Angeles, have not helped.

According to Garcetti, nearly two out of every three Angelenos are either immigrants, or the children of immigrants, and 1.5 million residents of the city are foreign born. "Immigrants make us proud, win victories, start businesses, graduate, and make our city strong," Garcetti said. "And yet for too many of our sisters and brothers in immigrant communities today, this is a time of great trepidation."

Chief Beck explained that community policing is based on two things: partnership with the community, and a relationship with the people of the community. "Those things," Beck said, "are not sustained when a police department knocks on a front door to get witness information or to talk to a victim and people run out the back door. And that is what we fear the most is happening in the city."