Paragould police encourage Hispanics to speak out

PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT/AP) - The Paragould Police Department is encouraging Hispanics who have been victims of crimes to report the incidents, even if they are in the country illegally.

PPD is backing up the police in central Arkansas after they publicly asked Hispanics to report a crime without worrying about deportation.

Just as Little Rock police Capt. Terry Hastings, Corporal Brad Snyder with the Paragould Police Department says the immigration status of a person is not the main priority when it comes to helping victims.

"Bottom line, our stance is we're here to protect people. We're here to take care of them if they're in trouble, and that's our job. Immigration or citizenship status it doesn't matter", he said.

"Call us if there is any domestic violence issue or a threatening issue, or something like that. We want to be able to come and to help alleviate and make it easier for them. The immigration thing and the citizenship status, that's a secondary issue for us."

Region 8 News spoke to Karina Morales, a local immigrant and who shared her opinions on the police's statement.

"I'm glad that they have stated publicly. I know it's hard to believe, but not everyone who comes to this country illegally is here to commit a crime. I can only imagine the fear that would come if I had to report something."

Officials have begun encouraging Hispanics on this issue after 26-year-old Victor Rosas was fatally shot by a robber as his daughters looked on. Police say the robber shot Rosas after he handed over his wallet.

Police believe Hispanic residents are targeted by criminals because of the belief that they will not go to police because they are in the United States illegally.

Alejandro Macias from the Mexican Consulate emailed the statement seen below.

"At first, the general recommendation is all Mexicans have some sort of valid identification, such as a passport,  an International Driver's License, or an Identification issued by the Consulate. This will allow the police to take their data and start the surveying reports and monitoring further research.
The Mexican Consulate is aware that sometimes there may be afraid of deportation and criminals when they consider reporting a crime. First of all, remember that federal authorities are the only one authorized to conduct investigations on immigration status here in Arkansas, so police departments or sheriff should not question the immigration status of a victim. All they ask of from an individual is a form of identification.
Regarding the fear of crime and retribution, it is essential to report the crime because it is the only way for the police to investigate crimes (without complaint, without investigation). Reporting, is the only way police are able to detain suspects and keep our neighborhoods safer.
If a Hispanic is a victim or witness of a crime and does not know what to do or not to know under what authority they may contact our Customer Protection 501-372-6933 ext. 223, 225 or 299, or also visit the Consulate, for guidance on how to report and help to improve the function of the police department."
For more information on the Mexican Consulate of Little Rock, click here.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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