A story for every victim

Latinos experience crime disproportionately, report says

Latinos in California are killed at twice the rate of whites and are more likely to have been killed by a stranger.

That's just one of the findings in a recent report on crime, Latinos and their experiences in the justice system produced by Californians for Safety and Justice.

The report, "Latino Voices: The Impacts of Crime and Criminal Justice Policies on Latinos," also found that Latinos are dramatically overrepresented as victims of crime and in courts, jails and prisons.

The findings of the report, which was released Tuesday, were reviewed by a panel at the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

“There are more broken families,” said Roberto Suro, the director of the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute at USC, which conducted research for the report. “There are more stories.”

Suro said the report sheds light on the “cumulative disadvantage” that Latinos see at every stage of the criminal justice system. This includes the increased odds of ending up in prison and higher bail amounts. 

Though Latinos are the largest ethnic group in California, there is very little data on the impact of the criminal justice system, said Lenore Anderson, the executive director of the nonprofit.

“When you have a system that is disproportionately impacting the community, you need to talk to the community,” Anderson said of potential solutions.

David Guizar, a crime survivor, also spoke on the panel. When Guizar was 10, his brother Fernando Oscar Martinez, then 17, was shot and killed.

Guizar’s memory of that night remains vivid. He remembers his mother shouting “No!” over and over.

The years to follow would be filled with drug and alcohol abuse. He got sober in 2006.

Six years later, his older brother, Gilberto Francis Guzman, was shot and killed in Central Alameda.

For Guizar, the report “gives some validity to my story.”

“It’s not just my family that this happened to,” he said.

Regarding crime, the report also found the following:

  • Latinos are more likely to experience multiple crimes. In a 2013 survey of California crime survivors, 43% of Latinos had experienced three or more crimes in the past five years, compared with 36% of crime survivors overall.
  • The same survey found that Latinos also have a harder time accessing services after a crime. Fewer than half of Latinos were aware of assistance with a victims’ compensation application (34%), help with medical or other crime-related expenses (37%), or mental health counseling (41%). Of those who were aware, one-third found counseling difficult to obtain. Nearly two-thirds of Latinos found the victims’ compensation application difficult.
  • Nationally, from 1994 to 2011, Latinos were also more likely to be shot than whites, and had higher home burglary rates than white households, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. (Latinos were less likely than African Americans to be shot and had lower burglary rates than African Americans.)
  • From 1997 to 2009, hate crimes against Latinos increased nationwide. As immigration increases, such crimes increase, according to a National Institute of Justice Report.
  • A 2013 study found that Los Angeles neighborhoods with a larger population of Latino immigrants led to less violent crime.
  • A survey of more than 2,000 Latinos in counties in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles and Phoenix found that 44% of Latinos would be hesitant to report being a victim of crime because they were afraid that police would inquire about immigration status.

To read the full report, click here

-- Nicole Santa Cruz

Photo: David Guizar, left, and his brother Gilberto Francis Guzman at a wedding. Credit: David Guizar

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