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For Some, Police Don't Signify Safety

Advocates for immigrants and lower-income New Yorkers say aggressive policing creates distrust, not safety. (Stan Wiechers/Flickr)
Advocates for immigrants and lower-income New Yorkers say aggressive policing creates distrust, not safety. (Stan Wiechers/Flickr)
August 3, 2016

NEW YORK - A march on Tuesday night by immigrants and low-wage workers gave a new meaning to ideas of community safety.

The first Tuesday in August is marked nationwide as the annual "National Night Out," a campaign promoting police-community partnerships and public safety. In many communities across the country, however, it's also an opportunity to change the narrative.

Daniel Carrillo, executive director of Enlace, an alliance of advocacy centers for low-wage workers, said the annual event is seen as a statement that "safety" means "more police."

"We don't believe that's true," he said. "There's been a history, especially more recently, it's been more in the news about police abuse and brutality, mostly against communities of color and immigrants."

Immigrants and low-wage workers marched in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens on Tuesday night, calling their event a Night Out for Safety and Liberation.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio credited what he called "broken-windows" policing, aggressively enforcing quality-of-life offenses, with reducing crime. However, Carrillo said that enforcement most often targets people of color.

"There's been more people that I work with that have reported being arrested or detained because of that policy," he said. "It's not creating safety in our community; it's creating more distrust."

According to the New York Civil Liberties Union, more than 80 percent of violations issued from 2001 to 2013 went to black and Hispanic men.

Last year, New York City hired 1,300 new police officers. Carrillo said those resources could have given every single young person in the city a job during his or her summer break.

"Instead of promoting youth employment and services to the community," Carrillo said, "they're investing in a police force that is effectively terrorizing communities of color and immigrants."

Night Out for Safety and Liberation events were held in more than 25 cities across the country. More information is online at nightoutforsafetyandliberation.com.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY