CSU Northridge -- October 31, 2003

CSUN Study Provides Data for 'Scorecard' on Latino Safety

The message is mixed when it comes to safety and Latinos, according to a new study by a team of researchers at Cal State Northridge’s Center for Southern California Studies.

On the one hand, there is little evidence that property or hate crimes are causing a serious problem for Latinos in the community. However, violent crimes seem to be disproportionately concentrated within the Latino community and directed against Latinos.

“Our study shows that across most types of crime, Latinos arrest and victimization rates are about what one would expect given their proportion of the area’s population. Indeed, across most categories, including total juvenile crimes and felonies, the rates are lower than one would expect,” said Martin Saiz, director of the Center.

“However,” Saiz said, “with respect to the most serious crimes, including homicides and aggravated assaults, Latinos are over-represented as victims and arrestees. We tested our results and found that the relationship between concentrations of violent crime and Latinos was statistically significant.”

The Center for Southern California Studies conducted the study for a new report, “Latino Scorecard 2003: Grading the American Dream,” released today by the United Way of Greater Los Angeles. The report evaluated how Latinos in the area fared in five key areas: health, education, economic development, housing and public safety.

The Center’s researchers took a comprehensive look at how Latinos are served by the various agencies responsible for the public’s safety in the Los Angeles area. They talked to representatives from such agencies as the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and the Los Angeles County Probation Department. They also mapped and then conducted a statistical analysis of crime data involving Latinos in the Los Angeles area.

The concentration of violent crimes in Latino communities troubled researchers.

“Although Latino juveniles account for fewer total arrests than one would expect, they account for more homicide arrests that their population size would justify,” Saiz said.

Saiz and his colleagues found little evidence that property or hate crimes are serious problems in the Latino community.

“However, there is a fear that reporting such incidents will require revelations of their residency or citizenship status,” noted Amalie Orme, director of research for the Center. Another problem, Saiz said, is that Latinos are “woefully underrepresented” among the area’s sworn police officers.

“This inequity will hamper programs designed to build trust and foster more positive relationships between the police and the Latino community. Underrepresentation may also undermine efforts to encourage Latinos to more fully report crime.”

Orme said the study provides a baseline to measure future progress for how the community and law enforcement deal with the issues raised in the report. “It will serve to amplify the direction that both the community and law enforcement will need to take to move toward the future because we’re dealing with hard data,” she said. “We will be able to come back and see how the community has fared in two or five years time. Hopefully, this study will create an open dialogue between those people involved in public safety—not just those in law enforcement—and the Latino community. People have to realize that public safety is not just the responsibility of law enforcement. It’s neighborhoods, schools, churches. Everybody is involved in public safety, especially in the Latino communities.”

CSUN's Center for Southern California Studies was established in 1996 to promote the study, documentation, and understanding of the cultural, historical, and ecological resources in the Southern California social and environmental setting. Housed in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, the center provides a bridge between diverse disciplines across the campus while strengthening research ties between the university and the community. The Center provides locational and policy analysis to the university and Southern California communities, local businesses, and government agencies.

Contact: Carmen Ramos Chandler, (818) 677-2130, carmen.chandler@csun.edu

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