Fact Check: Are Latinos more or less likely to call the police when victims of a crime?

Chris NicholsPolitiFact

Mar 01, 2017

This article from PolitiFact is reprinted here because of a collaboration between Reboot Illinois and the Pulitzer Prize-winning national website PolitiFact. For fact checks reported as part of this partnership, visit the PolitiFact Illinois website.

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Kamala Harris
U.S. Senator


“Studies have shown Latinos are more than 40 percent less likely to call 911 when they have been a victim of a crime.”

In her first official speech on the U.S. Senate floor, Sen. Kamala Harris said President Trump’s executive actions “have hit our immigrant and religious communities like a cold front, striking a chilling fear in the hearts of millions of good hardworking people.”

The California Democrat went on to say that rather than making communities safe, Trump’s immigration raids and policies will make immigrants less likely to report crimes for fear they’ll be deported.

“For this reason,” Harris said in her Feb. 16, 2017 speech, “studies have shown Latinos are more than 40 percent less likely to call 911 when they have been a victim of a crime.”

Harris makes her claim at about the 7:40 minute mark in the video above.

With so much focus in California on Trump’s immigration orders, we decided to fact-check Harris’s claim.

Our research

As evidence, a spokesman for Harris pointed to a 2013 study by a professor at the University of Chicago, Illinois, called “Insecure Communities: Latino Perceptions of Police Involvement in Immigration Enforcement.”

The study relied on a survey of 2,000 Hispanics, both documented and undocumented, in late 2012 in Phoenix, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston.

One of the survey questions asked respondents to agree or disagree with the following statement: “I am less likely to contact police officers if I have been the victim of a crime for fear that they will ask me or people I know about our immigration status.”

Overall, 44 percent of respondents agreed with the statement.

That’s just about what Harris said in her claim.

“Basically on target,” Nik Theodore, who authored the study and is a professor at the University of Chicago’s Department of Urban Planning and Policy, told PolitiFact California.

Here’s a breakdown of the share less likely to contact police by county and state surveyed:

Chicago (Cook County) Illinois: 39 percent

Houston (Harris County) Texas: 47 percent

Los Angeles (Los Angeles County) California: 40 percent

Phoenix (Maricopa County) Arizona: 50 percent

Digging deeper, the study found overall 70 percent of undocumented Latinos and 28 percent of U.S.-born Latinos were hesitant to contact the police when they had been the victim of a crime. It also found that more than 40 percent of respondents were less likely to contact police about a crime they knew had taken place.

The study did not report on the share of overall Americans hesitant to call police because it only surveyed Latino residents.

While technically Harris says “studies” in her claim, indicating there are multiple reports that back this up, her spokesman said he could only find the single report from 2013 as evidence.

2009 Pew study

Theodore told us there hasn’t been much research on Latino attitudes about police.

We did find a 2009 study by the Pew Research Center that’s somewhat similar.

It found 78 percent of Hispanics surveyed in 2008 said they would definitely contact police if they were the victim of a violent crime. An even higher percentage, 84 percent, said they would contact police if they were the victim of a property crime.

That would indicate that, at least at that time, a smaller share than 40 percent of Latinos were hesitant to contact police when they were victims of a crime.

Asked about this, Theodore said the two studies ask different questions and were completed four years apart. He added that his study “was done after an increase in police involvement in immigration enforcement.”

Immigrant rights groups often cite Arizona’s passage of a broad new immigration enforcement measure, SB 1070 in 2010, as eroding trust between Hispanics and law enforcement in that state. The law, which faced numerous legal challenges, required Arizona state law enforcement officers to attempt to determine a person’s immigration status when there was reasonable suspicion that person was an illegal immigrant.

When looking at the two studies, only the 2013 University of Chicago study asks whether respondents would be “less likely” to contact the police if they had been the victim of a crime “for fear that they will ask me or people I know about our immigration status.”

The Pew study does not include the second part of that question.

The Pew study did find that about 50 percent of respondents felt “just some or very little confidence that police will treat Hispanics fairly.”

John Thiella is a consultant with the Sacramento-based Latino Policy Coalition, which advocates for immigrant rights.

He said Harris used “a fair statistic” in describing the percentage of Latinos hesitant to call police when they are victims of a crime.

Thiella said there’s long been “a climate of fear and uncertainty” between Latinos and the police due to the lack of a clear path forward for undocumented residents.

He said Trump’s hard-line immigration policies have deepened that fear.

Obama Administration also contributed to the uncertainty by deporting more than 2.5 million illegal immigrants, more than under any president in U.S. history.

Our ruling

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris said in a recent speech that “studies have shown Latinos are more than 40 percent less likely to call 911 when they have been a victim of a crime.”

A 2013 study by a professor at the University of Chicago, Illinois, found 44 percent of respondents (all Hispanics) agreed with the following statement:

“I am less likely to contact police officers if I have been the victim of a crime for fear that they will ask me or people I know about our immigration status.”

The study’s author called Harris’ claim “basically on target.”

Harris leaves the impression there are multiple reports to back up her claim when she uses the phrase “studies have shown” in her claim.

Based on our research, and comments from her spokesman, there’s only a single report that backs this up.

In 2009, the Pew Research Center produced a report that indicates a smaller share of Hispanics would be hesitant to contact police if they were victims of a crime.

Unlike the 2013 report, the Pew study did not raise the issue of whether respondents would be concerned police would ask about their immigration status. It also took place before an increase in police involvement in immigration enforcement around the country.

In the end, Harris’ statement needs a couple clarifications but is backed up by the 2013 report.

We rate it Mostly True.


MOSTLY TRUE – The statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information.


About this statement:

Published: Friday, February 24th, 2017 at 6:00 a.m.

Researched by: Chris Nichols

Edited by: Gregory Favre

Subjects: Crime, Immigration

Sources:

Interview, Tyrone Gayle, spokesman, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, Feb. 21, 2017

Interview, John Thiella, consultant, Latino Policy Coalition, Feb. 21, 2017

Interview, Nik Theodore, professor, University of Illinois at Chicago, Department of Urban Planning and Policy, Feb. 22, 2017

University of Illinois at Chicago, Lake Research Partners: Insecure Communities: Latino Perceptions of Police Involvement in Immigration Enforcement, May 2013

Pew Research Center, Hispanics and the Criminal Justice System, April 7, 2009

Tomas Rivera Policy Institute, University of Southern California Price School of Public Policy, Latino Experiences with Crime, accessed February 2017

ABC15.com, Study: Latinos now less likely to report crimes, May 9, 2013

AZCentral.com, Trump will need local police to help carry out deportation orders. Will they comply?, Feb. 2, 2017

ABC News, Obama Has Deported More People Than Any Other President, Aug. 29, 2016

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