Immigrant communities in Las Vegas fear deportation, afraid to report crime

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) - Crimes around the Las Vegas valley are sometimes going unreported as many are still afraid to call 911 over fears of deportation.

Amid a murder investigation Monday near Vegas Valley and Mountain Vista, police were frustrated that although shots were heard the night before, no one called to report them.

"Everybody thinks somebody else is going to call and and nobody calls," says Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Lt. Dan McGrath.

McGrath then stressed the need for people to call, reminded people in Spanish-speaking communities that at the department.

"We don't really care about people's immigration that's not really our concern."

But that concern is still palpable among many in the Hispanic community in Las Vegas. 

"My first intent is not to call the police... just because of that fear," says Leo Murrieta. 

Although Murrieta is a citizen, he says many in immigrant families and those who are undocumented are still afraid to report crime because of fears of deportation. 

"There's a perception the police coordinate with ICE and the police help you and your family get deported."

That fear, he says, sometimes outweighs the need for safety if a crime happens.

Murrieta says part of the problem is LVMPD's partnership with ICE.  But Aden Ocampo-Gomez with LVMPD says that's a misconception.

Ocampo-Gomez says LVMPD only works with ICE after people are already booked into jail, and says when it comes to being pulled over or calling to report a crime, LVMPD is not in the business of checking immigration status.

"We want to catch anyone who's victimizing our community, regardless of their status," he says. 

He says whether a citizen or non-citizen, they're focus is on keeping people safe.  But he realizes that perception in the Hispanic community is still something the department needs to work on.

In addition to a large number of Spanish speaking officers, LVMPD is also doing outreach in the community to combat the fears of calling police.

Ocampo-Gomez also says they have officers available to meet people at the Mexican consulate if that makes them more comfortable because of their immigration status.

At the end of the day, he hopes that outreach will make people more comfortable contacting law enforcement if they need help.

"How do we know crime is actually happening when they're not calling it in? How do we know there's victims in our community if they're not communicating with us?" 

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