Hispanic Business Owners Feel They're Being Ignored By the MPD

Three Hispanic-owned businesses — a clothing store called Urbano, the La Roca supermarket, and El Ranchito Taqueria — were robbed in the Summer Avenue/Berclair area in mid-December and early January.

Thanks to surveillance video, the three business owners suspect the same man is responsible. But up until today, they’ve felt like the Memphis Police Department has been ignoring their pleas for help. This morning at Caminos de Michoacan Restaurant, those business owners (as well as media outlets and other Hispanic leaders from throughout the community) met with about 10 Memphis Police officers to demand answers. “We want more patrol, more police presence,” said one business owner.

“We’ve given the police a lot of information and we’ve tried to do the most we can to help them,” said Jennifer Castillo, owner of Urbano. Castillo said they’ve even turned over a still from a surveillance video of the man responsible for robbing La Roca. But the police still haven’t located the suspect.

Director Larry Godwin assured the business owners that his officers were working on the December and January cases, and he said the Memphis Police Department’s (MPD) Hispanic Action Response Team, a team of officers who work specifically with Spanish-speaking citizens, spends 90 percent of its time in Summer Avenue area. He said they often patrol in unmarked cars, so people might not realize the police are in their neighborhoods.

“If you’re a victim, it doesn’t matter if you’re white, black, Hispanic, or Asian,” Godwin said, assuring the attendees that the MPD doesn’t discriminate.

Godwin also expressed that illegal immigrants shouldn’t shy away from reporting crimes for fear of being deported.

“I’m not going to lock up anybody for being here illegally. I’m not [with Immigration],” Godwin said.

Colonel Jeff Clark advised the business leaders gathered to form a neighborhood watch group and attend monthly neighborhood watch meetings at the Tillman Station precinct.

After the meeting adjourned, Castillo said she felt a little better about the relationship between the MPD and Hispanic-owned businesses: “They gave us a lot of phone numbers we can call and information on how to deal with this situation.”

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