NEW ORLEANS - The Latino population is growing in Mid-City, but neighborhood leaders say so, too, is crime against Hispanics.
'I personally have dealt with, I can say over 10, either armed robberies, personal attacks, physical attacks, concerning Hispanic residents in Mid-City alone,' said Roux Merlo, the Mid-City Neighborhood Association's quality of life director, and the sole Hispanic on the board.
Merlo said all of the victims who have come to him have opted not to report the crime to police, either because they are afraid of deportation or they come from countries where they are used to fearing law enforcement.
Business owners say some of the crimes happened in the 4000 block of Tulane Avenue, near a stretch of bars that draw a large Latino crowd.
'They know the Hispanic worker has money, cash on them,' said Merlo.
Business owners in the area say the crimes ranged from an armed robbery in broad daylight to robbers pulling up in a white van and posing as INS officials. A business owner who asked to remain anonymous said the drivers of the van handcuffed their victims and refused to let them go until they had $2,000 cash.
Both alleged crimes apparently went unreported.
That's why the Mid-City Business Association opted to install ProjectNOLA cameras near Hispanic businesses in the 4000 block of Tulane Avenue. It's part of a larger initiative to help deter crime along the corridor.
'A lot of those folks were getting robbed during the day and night and we just wanted to put a stop to that,' said Mid-City Business Association President Josef Wright. 'We went and talked to the bar owners and said, 'We're not trying to catch [any undocumented people], we're trying to protect you and us, from people like the armed robbers.''
Keeping people safe is also a big concern for Puentes New Orleans, a Hispanic Advocacy group. It's focusing efforts on Mid-City because it has one of the most dense Hispanic populations in the city.
'In our focus groups and our one-on-ones and our neighborhood meetings, this issue of safety kept coming up,' said Julissa Gonzales, a Puentes community organizer.
Of course, it is difficult to find statistics on the number of crimes that go unreported. But Puentes is working with local police districts and holding monthly meetings with residents to encourage victims of crime to make their voices heard.
'We encourage anyone who is the victim of a crime to report it to NOPD. Victims are not asked to provide proof of residency or citizenship to report a crime,' said New Orleans Police Department spokesman Benjamin Hammond in a statement.
'The NOPD recruits and hires officers from diverse backgrounds in order to effectively communicate with residents and visitors from around the world. Today, we have officers fluent in several languages including, Arabic, Chinese, French, Spanish and Vietnamese. In addition, the NOPD purchased over 60 ESLA hand held translator devices that provide real time translation from a live interpreter.'
The story was developed with our partners at www.midcitymessenger.com.