Unidos is a community program geared toward improving the quality of life for our Hispanic residents. This is accomplished by providing assistance in areas of relevance to the Hispanic community and focusing on being a resource center to meet the needs of the Hispanic community.
Many of our residents who are Hispanic speak very little or no English and have only been in the U.S. for a short time. Most are from Latin countries where the police are corrupt and cannot be trusted. In addition, the post 9/11 emphasis on terrorism and the ongoing national immigration debate has increased this level of distrust for many Hispanic immigrants. Due to this suspicion and lack of trust, our police department was faced with many crimes that were not being reported while many Hispanic residents refused to come forward in crimes that were being investigated. There were numerous instances where our Hispanic residents were in trouble with the system based on misinformation rather than intent. The language barrier and lack of involvement with the police created many instances where Hispanics were unnecessary victims of crime, because of lack of familiarity with crime prevention and apathy. We also found that many situations were mishandled by our officers due to their lack of understanding of the Hispanic culture and the history of Latin policing systems.
Unidos was founded on several unique principles. Unidos truly believes in two-way communication and the promotion of trust between the police and the community. To that end, Unidos meetings feature speakers and topics that are not necessarily police-related, but rather subjects of interest and relevance to the Hispanic community. These meetings focus on improving the basic quality of life for our Hispanic residents.
Unidos acts as a resource center where Hispanic residents can obtain information or assistance on any topic regardless of whether or not it is police-related. Spanish-speaking officers are available at the end of each meeting to spend one-on-one time with the residents in answering their specific questions or helping them find solutions to their individual needs.
In order to achieve this objective, Unidos involves the participation of Hispanic community leaders, bilingual City employees from other departments and Spanish-speaking professionals from the community.
Unidos realizes that our Spanish-speaking residents receive much of their information from the Spanish media outlets. Unidos spends time in partnering with these media outlets in information dissemination and advertising for the program. At each Unidos meeting, refreshments are served and officers sit among the crowd to share in this special fellowship.
Unidos has also been innovative in the respect that any police department can start an Unidos program at little cost. By taking an innovative approach in improving the quality of life for many Hispanic residents, as opposed to only a police educational component, Unidos has been able to gain genuine trust from many Hispanic residents. As quality of life and communication has improved, crime reporting has increased and Hispanic-specific crime victimization has decreased. Unidos has helped create a bond with the Hispanic community and helped our officers better understand this sizeable segment of our population.
Previously, many of our Hispanic residents would go directly to the media to air their complaints, but negative media attention is now almost nonexistent and most residents feel comfortable reporting complaints directly to police officials. Many complaints are now avoided due to increased cultural awareness on both sides. A better understanding of the criminal laws and municipal ordinances, through Unidos programs, appears to be leading to fewer Code and Safety violations committed by Hispanics in our city. Hispanic involvement in Crime Watch Programs has grown through the promotion of these programs at Unidos meetings. Increased cultural awareness on behalf of our officers has lead to fewer citizen complaints through the media and more instances of enforcement as a last resort.
As a direct result of information received at Unidos meetings, narcotics arrests have been made in which large amounts of drugs and cash were seized. Our city was experiencing numerous robbery offenses committed against Hispanic residents who were carrying large amounts of cash on their person. Unidos helped in an effort to reduce these offenses through: encouraging Hispanic residents to obtain identification to open a bank account, helping educate the Hispanic community on ways to avoid becoming a crime victim, more accurate crime reporting, and dissemination of crime trends in the affected neighborhoods. Combined efforts have lead to a reduction in these types of offenses. Unidos has helped Hispanic residents in apartment complexes feel more comfortable with reporting illegal activities, which has lead to an increased number of evictions thus helping remove potential offenders from our city.
Unidos has led to increased trust between the Grand Prairie, Garland, Plano, Dallas and Richardson Police Departments and the Hispanic community. This has helped foster a sense of ownership in the community, which has lead to a more proactive approach to crime and police/community issues as opposed to a reactive one. Ultimately, we hope that Unidos provides a better quality of life for all persons who live and work in our community.
Providing an opportunity for police agencies to partner with our Spanish-speaking residents and serve as a resource for creating an improved quality of life for the entire community.
Proporcionar una oportunidad para que las agencias de policia de asociarnos con nuestros residentes hablan espanol y servir como un recurso para la creacion de una mejor calidad de vida para toda la comunidad.