Amid a general “culture of silence” among crime witnesses immigrant advocates say the relationship between the Houston Police Department and the city’s immigrant communities has suffered amid confusion and misinformation about an immigration screening program in the city’s jails, the Houston Chronicle reports. Police officials have tried to clarify through public outreach campaigns that officers and detectives do not act as Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. and are considering turning to foreign-language media for help with their message.
Just days before a Jan. 1 homicide, the 18-year-old victim’s brother had spotted a break-in at a townhouse across the street. The brother, an illegal immigrant, didn’t call police to report the burglary, even though he recognized the suspect, a drifter known around the neighborhood. “The attitude was that, 'You know what, it’s not my business, I’m not going to bring any attention to myself. I’m not going to call the police,’?” said one officer. That same drifter is now the prime suspect in the killing of that witness’s brother and the shooting of another brother. The handgun used in the shootings had been stolen in the townhouse burglary. Acting Police Chief Charles McClelland said he has heard of cases involving victims who come forward only after being repeatedly victimized, and then report the crimes only after being reassured their immigration status won’t become an issue.