Police reach out to Latino community, others new to Indy

(WISH Photo, file)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Police and immigrant communities who are new to Indianapolis met Thursday night to try to bridge the gap.

A discussion was held at an east side school Thursday evening as a part of IMPD’s Latino outreach initiative.

Thursday’s discussion was a collaboration between the Immigrant Welcome Center, the prosecutor’s office, IMPD, and Holy Spirit Catholic School.

And it’s not just the Latino community the groups are reaching out to; it’s anyone who’s new to living in Indianapolis.

“Probably [in the last] 2 or 3 years, [there] has been an awakening on how we can stop crime, how can we not be the victims?” said Gerson Cardona, an IMPD chaplain.

Cardona says he started recognizing the need to bridge that gap a few years ago. He’s since met with pastors within the Latino community, and they’ve met with police, encouraging others to learn about home safety, neighborhood safety, even simple things like who to call, in an emergency. He says it all starts with trust.

This meeting was a key part of encouraging the discussion and education between police and the community.

“The issue has been, especially with the Hispanic community, the lack of knowledge,” said Cardona. “What is the law? What are the rules? How are we to abide in this country that has opened the doors for us?”

Police in the east district say they started to realize the need, when they responded to a series of robberies near 21st and Arlington, and learned that was common in that area.

“A lot of these incidents weren’t being reported, and that’s what alarmed us,” said IMPD Officer Rafael Diaz. “We knew we needed to do something to change that.”

“The police department protects and serves everyone in the community. But we also need their help in fighting crime in their neighborhoods: we have to do it together,” said Commander James Waters, with the East District.

Paul Lian is a refugee from Burma who attended the discussion Thursday. He says he’s lived in the United State for nearly five years, and was eager to learn more.

“The families are so excited to learn. Some of them don’t even know how to call 911. We are expecting to learn some of that tonight,” said Lian.

Other simple things, like how a basic traffic stop works, may be different in different countries. Police were planning to go through that on Thursday evening as well.

Commander Waters says they’ve been working for the past two and a half years to better their relationship with the Latino Community in the east district. He says last July, a grant funded a Latino crime watch specialist. He says they’re also arranging for additional Spanish training for east district officers, as well.

“It all starts with trust,” added Cardona. “It’s the beginning.”

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