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Nepali refugees targeted by crime

Rochester, N.Y. --- Rochester Police and others in the community are now working to empower Nepali refugees who have recently become targets of crime in some neighborhoods.

Just last week a series of incidents were reported in the Northwest Rochester neighborhoods that are now home to many Nepali. Two men bullied others who were peacefully playing soccer at Edgerton Park, someone was robbed of an iPad and sunglasses, a vehicle was damaged, and a brick was thrown through the window of a home.

Rochester Police Chief Mike Ciminelli announced Monday that two teenagers, aged 14 and 15, were arrested on Friday and charged with Robbery 2nd Degree, Grand Larceny 4th Degree, and Criminal Mischief 3rd Degree. Chief Ciminelli could not provide details about those charges because the suspects are juveniles and their cases are now being handled in Family Court where records will remain sealed.

Chief Ciminelli said his office is also in contact with the Monroe County District Attorney's Office and the U.S. Attorney's Office as they investigate other incidents. Hate crime charges carry more severe penalties and will be pursued if the evidence warrants it.

"What I want to emphasize is this, whatever the reason is whatever the motivation is we're not going to tolerate it we're going to deal with," said Chief Ciminelli.

Rochester Police are now working with a community contact and trying to educate and empower Nepali refugees. Teaching them how to call 911, report a crime or an emergency, and become effective witnesses to crimes is part of the mission.

"In meeting with them part of what we noticed was there was a strong language barrier, many of these individuals have not been in the United States very long," said Rochester Police Commander Wayne Harris.

"How the police work what they need from us, what the sequence of events is, what is needed to make an arrest, how do you go to court these are all questions that we take for granted here because this is part of our environment," added the Chief. "We wouldn't know if we were in another country."

At Mary's Place on Lexington Avenue, a refugee outreach center, many Nepali refugees are learning the language skills needed to help police and emergency responders in this community. In the last three years nearly 500 Nepali refugees have moved to Rochester.

"They're good people and our focus is to keep them safe while helping them to be very independent they do not want to have to rely on the government or welfare or social benefits, they want to support their families they work very hard to learn English," explained Kathy LaBue of Mary's Place. "They are vulnerable because they are trusting of our American culture they heard so much good about us before they got here."

Sher Magar arrived in Rochester in May and joined many family members already living here.

"I like Rochester, I love Rochester, I want to be in Rochester," said Magar. "I feel safe, I feel safe in Rochester and I hope that other Nepali people also they are also safe."

While that is generally true, Magar also knows that even some members of his family have been targeted. His father was the victim of an unprovoked attack just one year ago.

"At that time some people come from back and they punch him, they hit him, so that is very sad when I heard that that is very sad," explained Magar. "He's my father, so he told me that be careful."

"They've been through immigration, they've come from (refugee) camps, they come from a country where the leader said - OK you folks, we don't want you here anymore you're going to live in camps - and so the authorities signify to them the problem the reason that they can't go back to their homes, the reason that they can't live their lives," explained LaBue of the societal and cultural obstacles that make the Nepali refugees targets of crime. "When they come here we say the police are your friends, call 911 the fire department comes, police come, ambulance come and they don't know yet their own name or address."

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Washington Times