Local News

Crime, Language Barrier Make Life Difficult for Durham Hispanics

Posted August 2, 1998

— Police are canvassing a Durham neighborhood trying to track down a killer. They say it was another violent crime targeting Hispanics, and it happened in the parking lot at Wellington Place apartments.

Officers say a suspect shot a 25-year-old Latino man during a robbery attempt. That man died early Sunday morning.

Violent crime, coupled with a language barrier, makes life tough for many in Durham's Hispanic community. The city is trying to address that problem by starting HOIST -- the Hispanic Outreach Intervention Strategy Team that hit the streets in January.

Whether or not the group has made any inroads, members say they are doing their best. While this past weekend's incident shows that Latinos continue to be targeted, HOIST is trying to help, one case at a time. HOIST police teams hope for small successes.

Police say Carlos Jimenez is a walking miracle. Jimenez was in his car last June with his wife, his son, and his cousin when a man walked up to the car and shot Jimenez in the shoulder when Jimenez said he had no money. Doctors say most would not have survived the wound Jimenez received that day. The bullet traveled near his heart and exited from his neck.

Through an interpreter, Jimenez told WRAL's Mark Roberts that he spent nine days in the hospital followed by four months of rehabilitation.

He now faces $24,000 in medical bills, in a foreign land, with no means of support. Jimenez, a native of El Salvador, turned to HOIST for help.

The team helped to raise money for the medical bills from state and local funding. Team members say Jimenez' story speaks for an entire community that's being victimized.

"We are here to stay," says HOIST Officer Nestor Gonzalez. "We are here to be at peace with everybody else. We are not here to cause any damage or personal injury to anybody. We just want to be part of the American dream."

"[Jimenez] doesn't feel anything in his heart toward anybody," says HOIST Officer Mark Johnston. "He said, with the help of police working on the crime, he would just like to try to make a better living, and he's not too worried about [what happened]."

The HOIST officers spend much of their time working as interpreters as police seek to solve crimes against Latinos. They are currently looking for evidence that might help solve the murder that occurred over this past weekend.

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