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An immigrant community under siege.
CAUSE AND EFFECT

The disturbing reason Los Angeles Latinos are reporting 25% fewer sexual assaults

By Hanna Kozlowska

The Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration may have a worrying unintended consequence: Preventing US residents from reporting serious crimes.

Reports of sexual assaults in the Latino community of Los Angeles dropped 25% in the first months of 2017, compared to the same period last year, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. Reports of domestic violence fell 10%, and both declines were far bigger than in any other demographic group, the LAPD 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,” said Charlie Beck, chief of the LAPD, during a press conference on March 21, referring to concerns among undocumented immigrants about risking deportation when interacting with law enforcement. He said there was a “strong correlation” between the decline in reporting and an increasing atmosphere of fear among the local Latino community in recent months.

While the numbers of sexual assault among the Latinos fell from 164 in 2016 to 123 in 2017, among non-Latinos they dropped from 228 to 221, a 3% difference.

Beck was speaking during at a press conference convened by mayor Eric Garcetti. The mayor announced that he would expand an LAPD policy that forbids stopping people for questioning about immigration status, to city agencies including the fire department and airport police.

US police departments often worry about immigration enforcement interfering in their interactions with immigrant communities, eroding trust that is necessary to effectively combat crime. In LA, this may be further exacerbated by ICE officers falsely identifying themselves as “police,” but also by past collaborations between ICE and the LAPD to arrest undocumented immigrants who had not committed crimes, according to a Buzzfeed investigation. 

The drop in reported sexual assaults among Latinos is particularly concerning, since reporting rates are already low compared with other crimes. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, only about one-third of all sexual assaults or rapes nationally were reported to the police in 2015.