Friday, October 26, 2007

Robbery and the Immigration Problem

Amongst those in law enforcement, this phenomenon is rather well known and has been so for a number of years. Nice to see it getting some mainstream media attention in today's Washington Post.

Robbers Stalk Hispanic Immigrants, Seeing Ideal Prey:

"By the time they set upon Victor Hernandez, knocking him to the pavement and kicking him furiously, the teenagers were deep into a weeks-long spree of robbing Hispanic immigrants.

"They coined a term for the assaults, one that reflected the uniformity of the victims they selected: "amigo shopping." The teenagers recorded some of the attacks with a cellphone camera, saving one of the videos under the file name "amigo," a source familiar with the case said.

"Hernandez, a dishwasher in Montgomery County, was an ideal target that August night in a type of robbery that law enforcement officials say has become alarmingly common in parts of the Washington region. Hispanic immigrants are being targeted, often in gratuitously violent attacks by non-Hispanics, because they are thought to carry cash rather than use banks and to be reluctant to report crimes to police, the officials said."

It's one of the ironies that gets lost in all the rhetoric regarding "illegals" and "immigrant crime," that in fact immigrants, both of a legal and undocumented nature, often seem to be the increasing targets and victims of our own, home-grown criminal element.

And while this has been a problem for years, reliable data is hard to obtain since the nature of the crimes, particularly the lack of victim cooperation, doesn't lend itself to relaible reporting, either officially via the police and UCR, or even in victimization surveys, via the NCVS, since immigrant populations aren't sampled with any routine regularity.

The academic research in this area also seems to be thin (here and here for starters), indicating vast areas for future research. Questions that seem to arise immediately are, how many of these crimes are being committed in response to feelings of anti-immigration, which is very prevalent in the country at the moment, and how many of these are mere crimes of opportunity? If perpetrators are from all ethnic backgrounds (including Latinos), then are the victimized immigrants mere "easy marks", in the criminal lexicon, or is there a xenophobia angle which needs to be explored and addressed to prevent future victimization (possibly in the hate crimes area)?

Regardless of your feelings on immigration, criminal victimization is something we need to address, no matter the race or national origin of the victim. It taxes us a society, both financially and ethically, to allow crimes of these types go on unnoticed.

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