Jennifer Miller, Daily Local (Exton, Pennsylvania), June 29, 2008
The Coatesville Police Department continues to receive reports of black city residents robbing, assaulting and raping Hispanic immigrants, according to Police Chief William Matthews.
And, if the activity is not stopped, police say it could trigger the formation of violent Hispanic gangs as a type of cultural protection.
With the city’s black community, growing immigrant population—many of whom do not speak English—combined with the city’s social issues, “It’s not long before you have black-on-brown crime,” said Matthews. “And we’re seeing the beginning of that.”
Matthews said African Americans are targeting Hispanics who are vulnerable. The victims do not speak English and often do not report crimes to the police out of fear their immigration status will be questioned, he said.
African Americans are responsible for robbing, assaulting and raping Hispanics, as well as invading their homes, Matthews said.
Matthews said some immigrants do not trust the police in their home countries and the mindset travels with them here.
If the issue is not dealt with soon, Matthews said, the city could face the worst crime it has ever seen when Hispanic victims or their relatives resort to forming notoriously violent gangs, like MS-13, to defend their community.
“If we don’t get our arms around this problem, organized gangs will fill the vacancies,” Matthews said. “There is no violence that’s happened in this city that can compare to the violence that could take its place.”
To address the language barrier, Matthews recently hired four Spanish-speaking officers.
“That’s one of the reasons we tried so hard to get Spanish-speaking officers—we couldn’t speak to them. We had to use an interpreter,” Matthews said outside Thursday’s meeting. “Members of the Hispanic community have come up to me and said thank you because they were able to pull an officer to the side and speak to them.”
Matthews said he is putting together an advisory board of Hispanic residents. The panel, he said, will recommend police procedures that would enable immigrants to report incidents without fear of deportation.
The Hispanic population has been steadily growing throughout the county for years. Most Hispanic immigrants in the county are from Mexico, experts say.
“I think this is happening all over right now—all over the county,” Garcia [Aida Garcia, director of social services for nonprofit La Comunidad Hispana] said. “This has been happening for a while, except people haven’t been talking because they were afraid. This is nothing new.”