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Gang activity rises in Suffolk County, NY amig growing distrust of police in Hispanic community

October 13, 2016  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Gang activity rises in Suffolk County, NY amig growing distrust of police in Hispanic community Getty Images

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The Latino population living in Suffolk County, New York has grown to be increasingly distrusting of law enforcement officials over the past ten years, a hostile sentiment that has been escalating extensively in recent months, which has also coincided with a rise in gang activity.

The disconnection between authorities and residents of the community has been stricken with a spike in gang activity and the violence accompanied with it. Residents and parents alike have been terrified since street gangs – some with links to the infamously violent MS-13 group – are competing to recruit over 3,000 migrant children who have recently moved to the county.

“The community is feeling like they don’t have enough support and mechanisms to come together and work with not just the police department but also schools,” said Walter Barrientos of the local advocacy group Make the Road NY, in an interview with Fox News Latino.

In just two weeks, four teenagers who attended the same school were discovered murdered in the Long Island town of Brentwood in September. Law enforcement officials promptly suspected members of MS-13 in the killings, but no apprehensions have been carried out.

Two of the killed, both of whom were 15-years-old, sustained horrific injuries to the face and head.

Many are worried that the brutal slayings serve as proof that gang-related activity is spiraling out of control in the area, which is further complicated by the communication barrier between police and the Latino community.

Tim Sini, the police commissioner, has been working to ameliorate those relations and reinstate the community’s trust in its law enforcement.

Suffolk County has already added Spanish translators, incorporated a more efficient system for citizens to file complaints against the department, and initiated a new class of officers that is 17% Hispanic.

However, there is still a long way to go. A yearly report revealed that so far in 2016, there have been 32 allegations of unprofessional attitude and excessive force by police officers. In 2015, the number of biased patrolling was just above 50.

“It’s going to take time to put people in perfect places [to build trust], and we need to keep working at it every day,” Sini said in a statement to Fox News Latino. “The plans we have in place are the right plans. We need to make sure officers are not dismissive and are perfectly trained to not be dismissive.”

Some citizens assert that they still haven’t noticed any changes implemented by police departments and they still live in fear of the rising gang activity.

Linda, who requested to speak under the condition anonymity due to security concerns, said she was helpless when her daughter disappeared from their Brentwood residence in early 2016. She reported her missing to police but said that she couldn’t quickly reach a translator and felt that her case wasn’t taken seriously.

Thankfully her daughter came home after three days. According to the mother, her daughter was having trouble adjusting to their new life in the U.S. after she came along with the wave of Central American children escaping domestic and gang violence in 2014. The family was granted permission to enter on a visa allotted for crime victims.

Linda stated that her daughter associated with other immigrants at the local High School, a group that has been subjected to coercion by MS-13 gang members on the hunt for potential volunteers.

MS-13, a notorious gang, known for its shocking brutality, was formed in L.A. back in the 1980s and found its way to Long Island during a Central American immigration surge in the 1990s. Linda and other residents have displayed grave concern that their kids are being abused and threatened by gangs that are targeting teens who are new to the U.S.

Linda’s daughter was reported missing around the same time that parents of the victims disappeared. Although the community was riddled with worry, authorities did not seem concerned, according to Linda. She further noted that the police told her just to wait a couple of days.

“I felt like if these were white students, or if this is going on in another community, perhaps communication with police would be different,” the concerned mother said.

Linda, along with delegates from Sepa Mujer, a Latina advocacy organization, met with Commissioner Sini to talk about the challenges that she had communicating with authorities regarding her case.

After that encounter, officials immediately called her and collected her daughter’s account.

“I got results because I was with an advocacy group,” she said. “What will happen to the rest of the community that doesn’t have that access?”

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