Local News

Durham Police Need Hispanics' Trust to Fight Recent Crimes

Posted November 9, 1998 6:00 a.m. EST

— Since the beginning of November, there have been dozens of attacks against Hispanics in the Triangle.

Right now, police are doing what they usually do when there is an increase in crime -- stepping up patrols and circulating some composite pictures.

But, this time around, police say they have to take it one more step. They need the trust of Durham's Hispanic population.

Robbers shot and killed a Hispanic man in a southwest Durham apartment complex in August. It capped off months of increasing crime targeting Latino residents.

Police moved into the area and stepped up patrols. Crime against Latinos seemed to drop off the list. Now, Durham police say things have changed.

"Activity had just about dropped off completely. Then, as of last week, the beginning of the week, the armed robberies, especially, have started up again," said Durham Police Cpl. Fran Borden.

Police have composite photos of two suspects who have hit the neighborhood several times. It could be one group of robbers singling out Hispanics.

"It's the same thing. They jump out of a small car and rob people at gunpoint. Then they jump back in the car and flee," said Borden.

Now Durham's Latino population is fleeing. Often distrustful of banks and police, many Hispanics keep cash on hand and don't report crimes, making them easy targets. Social workers say many Durham Hispanics are simply leaving town.

"I think they're intimidated, and there is the language barrier. Many times they're too afraid to report what's happening to them to police, but it is happening out there. They're being victimized," said social worker Madeline Felekos.

Felekos said she has personally processed paper work for Hispanic families that have moved out of Durham recently because of the increase in crime.

Police just hope someone comes forward with some tips before there's another murder in Southwest Durham.