Wednesday, August 28, 2013 p
County police to talk safety with Hispanic residents Forums to help Latino community spot scams BY ST. JOHN BARNED-SMITH
Fears over immigration status and deportation may mean crimes against members of the county’s Latino community are going unreported. County police are reaching out to that community through Hispanic Community Forums scheduled countywide starting this Thursday in Silver Spring hoping to change that. “There is a large population suffering in silence,” Montgomery County Assistant Police Chief Darryl McSwain said. On Thursday, Montgomery County police will hold the ﬁrst of six community forums, which will attempt to provide members of the Hispanic community with information about places they can turn to if they are the victims of crime or fraud. The forums will address topics such as notary fraud, an overview of the emergency communications system and speciﬁc public safety issues, McSwain said. The forum will also include an overview of the Family Justice Center, which has resources for families in crisis and victims of domestic violence or sexual abuse, McSwain said. The department is concerned that members of Montgomery County’s Latino community might not report crimes because they are afraid that they may get in trouble with the law themselves because of fears about their immigration status or fears of deportation, he said. “Our goal is to treat every person with dignity and respect,” he said. At the forum, police will explain to residents that Montgomery County police will not use immigration information or status as a reason to stop or arrest a person as the sole basis to detain someone. “As more people are informed about resources ... we believe it will reduce fraud and incidents of victimization,” McSwain said. Many residents may not know that they can call 911 anonymously or understand how the 911 system works, he said. “It allows perpetrators to continue to victimize within the community and continue to [victimize] people throughout the entire county,” McSwain said. According to Blanca Kling, Hispanic liaison for Montgomery County police, police are also trying to warn residents about criminals posing as notary publics or other government ofﬁcials. Sometimes these criminals acting as legitimate notary publics will charge fees for forms which are supposed to be free, or falsely promise to help immigrants become citizens for a high fee, she said. “We want to make sure people are careful,” Kling said, adding that in one case a criminal posing has a notary targeted more than 50 victims. Daryl Leach, the Family Justice Center’s director, said someone from her center would be talking about services available to residents, including the ability to obtain a protective order from a Montgomery County judge via a video conference call, so they never have to leave the center, or other referrals the center could provide to domestic violence victims. The number of minority residents who come to the center has been steadily increasing, mostly by word of mouth, she said. “We would love to have many more at the table so people are not living in fear or feel like they must live in that domestic situation,” she said. Some of those services include therapy to abuse or domestic violence victims, or emergency funds, or referrals to other agencies or nonproﬁts like Catholic Charities. And the center is available to people whether or not they can speak English, she said. The forum is scheduled for 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday at St. Camillus Church at 1600 St. Camillus Drive in Silver Spring.
Potomac, Montgomery County, Maryland, Gazette