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Recent crimes trigger outreach to Hispanics

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY -- A noticeable upswing in the number of violent crimes against members of the Hispanic community has mobilized the Albany Police Department.

"Since October 27, we have had nine crimes against Hispanics: aggravated assault, home invasion, robberies. There have been assaults with knives and firearms," Phyllis Banks, police spokeswoman said. "(Meijia Vincente Cruz) Eduardo was shot while he worked on his car."

Eduardo, 19, was shot in the abdomen at 8 p.m. Dec. 1 when two teens demanded money and he had none, police reports stated. He

survived the attack.

Police officials believe criminals have targeted Hispanics recently, Banks said. Officers have begun a door-to-door outreach program to pass out information and engage the community, she said.

The reasons for the targeting of Hispanics range from the belief that

they distrust banks and carry cash to the reticence Hispanics might have in calling the police, said police Cpl. Jorge Lopez.

"I am familiar with the residents in the Spanish speaking community," Lopez said. "Most of them live in the east side and that is where I'll be."

Although there are four Albany officers and staff who speak Spanish, Lopez has the cultural roots from his family in Puerto Rico and U.S. Army service in other Hispanic areas to be point on the program.

Other crimes against Hispanics may not have been reported, Lopez said. The nine are the ones that were.

"We are trying to help people be good citizens in the city of Albany," Lopez said. "They should not fear the police. Even if you are illegal, you have a right to be protected from crime. Only the criminals should fear us."

The outreach program will continue as police contact church leaders and other community organizations to reach the Hispanic community, Banks said.