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Saturday, June 26, 2004

Hispanic residents, police meet to work on communication - Tuesday, 04/20/04

Hispanic residents, police meet to work on communication - Tuesday, 04/20/04
By IAN DEMSKY
Staff Writer
Social problems of concern to audience

Metro police officials and Nashville's Hispanic community have taken several steps toward building trust and establishing communication since they last met in April.

Trust and communication are the cornerstones of improving relationships, panel members said at a second community meeting last night in Glencliff High School in south Nashville.

More than 50 residents and local officials attended, including Mayor Bill Purcell and state Rep. Janice Sontany, D-Nashville.

''This should be a place to talk about our challenges, our strengths and our plans, and do that without fear,'' Purcell said. He pledged to use the information and ideas coming out of the forum as guidance.

In addition to police officers, the eight-member panel included representatives from Hispanic media outlets, community organizations, U.S. immigration services and the state Department of Safety.

Metro police Capt. Rick Lankford said most crime problems in the heavily Hispanic areas of south Nashville were robberies involving people and businesses, gang violence, domestic violence and alcohol consumption.

Social and cultural differences, mistrust and language barriers are the biggest obstacles the department faces, he said.

New police programs to resolve these problems include recruiting Hispanic officers, forming partnerships with local businesses and promoting neighborhood watch groups.

Lt. Mitch Fuhrer of the Police Department's gangs unit said that since the previous meeting, officers had been talking to Hispanic business owners about gang activity and removing gang-related graffiti.

Ron Kidd, with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in Nashville, said Hispanic residents who are in the country illegally needed to know that they would not be investigated or deported for helping police solve crimes or for giving them information.

Audience members voiced several concerns, ranging from widespread social problems to individual needs. Some were worried about elderly and young Hispanics not being able to get state-issued identification cards after laws changed following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Others questioned how to report complaints about being falsely given a traffic ticket. Some asked whether residents who were in the country illegally could still offer to serve as liaisons between the police and the Hispanic community.

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