In Los Angeles, reports of sexual assault and domestic violence are down among city’s Latinx population and many—including LA’s police chief— believe concerns about deportation are a factor, the Los Angeles Times reported.
On Tuesday, LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck said reports of sexual assault by Latinx residents have dropped 25% in the first few months of 2017 compared to the same period last year, while reports of domestic violence fell by 10%. Most notably, the same level of decrease was not seen in other ethnic groups.
For non-Latinx groups, sexual assault and domestic violence reports only fell 3% and 4%, respectively.
The difference prompted Beck to stay there was a “strong correlation” between the numbers and the widespread fear that has gripped the Latinx community following Trump’s aggressive deportation policy.
From the Times:
“Imagine, a young woman, imagine your daughter, your sister, your mother … not reporting a sexual assault because they are afraid that their family will be torn apart,” Beck said.
Beck’s comments—which drew criticism from immigration enforcement advocates—came during an event in East Los Angeles in which LA Mayor Eric Garcetti signed an executive directive expanding the LAPD’s policy of not stopping people solely to question them about their immigration status.
The Times reports that it’s difficult to compare LA’s numbers with other cities in Southern California because not every police department tracks the ethnicity of alleged victims. However, an NPR report from Colorado found at least four undocumented women have refused to follow through on domestic violence charges for fear of being deported. Officials in EL Paso, TX, have also reported similar stories, according to the Times.
El Paso is where an undocumented woman was detained at a courthouse in February after seeking a protective order against her allegedly abusive ex-partner—a story which advocates for domestic violence victims warned could have a chilling effect on abused immigrants.
ICE spokeswoman Virginia C. Kice responded to the LA Times in a statement on Tuesday addressing Police Chief Beck’s comments—calling them “speculative":
“The inference by Los Angeles officials that the agency’s execution of its mission is undermining public safety is outrageous and wrongheaded,” Kice said. “In fact, the greater threat to public safety is local law enforcement’s continuing unwillingness to honor immigration detainers.
Kice also noted that special visas are sometimes offered to undocumented immigrants who are witnesses and victims of crimes, and that this information is taken into consideration when determining whether or not to deport someone who has entered into the country illegally.
However, as Fusion’s Katie McDonough reported earlier this year, victims of these crimes are unlikely to know these legal technicalities—a fact that their abusers exploit.