Local News

'Bad situation': Cary's police chief addresses fear of law enforcement among Latino community

Posted June 4, 2018 6:55 p.m. EDT
Updated June 4, 2018 7:05 p.m. EDT

— Police in Cary worry that fear is keeping Latino residents from reporting crimes.

During Ritmo Latino, a cultural celebration held over the weekend, Police Chief Tony Godwin pleaded with the community not to be afraid of him.

"We had a gentleman who was victimized in Cary, a victim of a crime and he was very reluctant to talk to us and just really didn't want to give us any information about who he was," Godwin said.

When the victim refused law enforcement help, Godwin said he realized the victim was afraid of police.

Dunia Vasquez, who lives in Cary but moved from Honduras on a work visa, said she has family members and knows other Hispanics or immigrants who are scared to report crimes.

"Many of us come from countries where the last group of people that we will call for help is law enforcement," said Mauricio Castro, co-founder of North Carolina Congress of Latino Organizations.

Even though the mistrust may stem from past experience, Castro says the Cary Police Department isn't doing the best job of breaking down that barrier.

"You have to build the trust. You have to be able to go and meet with the community," he said.

Godwin said that's exactly what his department plans to do.

"That's kind of like the worst situation we could have," he said. "You've already been a victim of a crime, you've been victimized once already and to not feel like you could turn to your local government for help. That's already a really bad situation."

Godwin said he knows things cannot be fixed overnight, but plans to continue to schedule forums and meetings.