We are working to stop a pattern of armed robberies in which the suspects told the victims – mostly older Latino males – not to report the crimes to police because they said officers would call Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to have them deported. Not only is that patently false, but the victims’ fear allowed the perpetrators to continue to victimize more and more people. This pattern of crimes started with four or five armed robberies in 2018 and resumed in May of this year, with another four to five cases linked so far.
Police arrested one of the three primary suspects Aug. 20, and he was charged with two counts of armed robbery and two counts of armed criminal action. We anticipate arrests and charges on the other two soon.
As I have said before, KCPD does not enforce immigration laws and never inquires about a victim’s or witness’s documentation. It’s irrelevant to our duty. We would not have known about these crimes were it not for the relationship one of our social service workers built with Hope City, a house of prayer and community center at 24th and Quincy. Crime had escalated around the center earlier this year, so the East Patrol social service worker and a captain began going to Hope City every morning to see what they could do and introduce themselves to staff and volunteers. The initially chilly reception from clients changed when they found out KCPD was there to help. The social service worker helped one woman get a prosthetic leg, giving her the ability to walk again. She got another woman with cancer into medical treatment. She worked with another man to get his identification documentation, and that allowed him to get a job. Crime issues surrounding the area have dropped significantly since KCPD intervention.
The clients talked among themselves, however, about how they had been robbed at gunpoint by three men while they waited in line at Hope City to receive a free meal. The suspects shot one of the victims in the leg last week. But the victims of the prior robberies did not go to police because the suspects had convinced them they would be deported if they did so. That is what made these crimes so heinous to me: not only did the suspects threaten the lives of people to take their meager possessions; they took away the victims’ chance for justice and protection. The suspects knew this would allow them to continue to prey on the immigrant community. The Kansas City Missouri Police Department will not tolerate those actions.
Fortunately, one of the staff members at Hope City told our social service worker what he’d heard about these crimes from clients. That gave police the chance to investigate these cases and stop the suspects who were hurting so many vulnerable individuals. We don’t care where you’re from or how you got here because it is our duty to protect and serve EVERYONE in Kansas City. The Spanish-speaking captain of the Robbery Unit has reached out to many victims to encourage them to participate in the investigation.
These crimes and the fear they incited of KCPD among immigrants started occurring long before the viral video of KCPD responding to ICE’s request for assistance during an arrest. Since that video, we have spent a great deal of time out in communities assuring residents that nothing has changed with KCPD’s approach to immigration. We do not ask about it and have no intention to start.
In addition to our many community meetings, some of our Spanish-speaking officers will soon be going onto local Spanish-language radio stations to explain KCPD’s policy and practice regarding immigration. A community that does not trust police is vulnerable to violent crime. What happened to the victims of the armed robbers at 24th and Quincy is the worst-case scenario of that. We don’t ever want that to happen again.
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