More Arabs and Muslims are being charged with breaking the law in Dearborn, Mich., than before September 11, 2001, but it’s far from the wholesale legal siege that some believe. Court records reviewed by The Detroit News show that Arabs — a third of Dearborn’s population — make up about a third of the court cases as well. “I agree the numbers may not be consistent with what (Arab) people believe, in traffic cases especially,” said Imad Hamad of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.
Still, Hamad said a “logical outcome” of increased enforcement after September 11 is troubling to a city that has the greatest concentration of Arabs in the United States and has been center of racial-profiling fears
A Detroit News analysis of more than 100,000 district court records found that the number of people with Middle Eastern names charged in Dearborn with offenses from uncut weeds to robbery has increased 9.3 percent since the terrorist attacks. The number of charges against people without Arab or Muslim names dropped 6.7 percent. City officials say any increase in charges against Middle Easterners is a byproduct of ramped-up ordinance enforcement that began long before September 11. They insist that police and housing inspectors go out of their way to ensure that race never factors in how justice is meted out.
The News’ analysis is the first in-depth look at how law enforcement changed for local Arabs after the terrorist attacks. Arab leaders, presented with The News’ findings, they admit things aren’t so bad as people thought.
The paper found:
–Housing, zoning ,and other residential-ordinance violations account for the biggest increase in cases against immigrants and people of Middle Eastern descent.
–Criminal cases against Arabs and Muslims, ranging from assaults to drunken driving, were 6.4 percent higher from September 2002 to September 2003 than in the year ending Sept. 10, 2001.
–Traffic cases in Dearborn have dropped across the board. The number of citations lodged against Middle Easterners fell 1.2 percent since September 11; other motorists experienced a 9.5 percent decline.
Despite the growing number of charges against them, Middle Easterners still accounted for fewer than 36 percent of prosecutions from September 2002 to September 2003, up from 32 percent in the year before the attacks. Despite increased prosecutions, only 20 percent of criminal cases involve Arabs. Arabs make up 33 percent of Dearborn’s population.