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RPD working with refugees
by Sean Carroll
Rochester, N.Y. --- On Thursday Rochester Police Officers and a 911 dispatcher were at Mary's Place, a refugee outreach center, hoping to empower a community that has been the target of recent crimes.
In recent weeks members of the Nepali refugee community were victims in a series of crimes and attacks. A robbery, a brick thrown through the window of a home, and a bullying incident on a soccer field are some of the incidents Rochester Police are now aware of. Two young teens were arrested last week in connection to some of those crimes.
For police and advocates for these refugees the hope of meetings like the one held Thursday afternoon is that the refugee community is empowered with simple skills that many take for granted. Knowing how to call 911 for help despite language barriers is one lesson that was taught. Overcoming much more complex cultural barriers is something that may take some more time.
"One of the gentlemen that is here every day came out of the (refugee) camps in Thailand, forced there from Burma, he was there 35-years," explained Kathy LaBue of Mary's Place. "Soldiers are enforcement, uniforms are to be fled from to run from and they come to America and we say uniforms are your friends, call them they will help you."
It is not a lesson that is easily learned and the psychological impact of being victimized by crimes can not be understated.
"It's very demoralizing, it is demoralizing to the point of adding to the trauma of having been forced to the camps," explained LaBue. "Coming from the camps to the country that was promised to be safe and then finding themselves attacked and their children not able to go safely on the streets, it pushes the potential suicide rate up."
"More than anything this is a cultural difference, this is them coming from an area where there's a certain amount of mistrust of people in authority and people who wear uniforms and for our part there's a certain amount of ignorance and misunderstanding about what their culture is and some of the things that they do," said Rochester Police Commander Wayne Harris. "So part of what we're hoping to accomplish with these is bridging that gap getting to that point where we understand them a little bit, they understand us a little better and more than anything we welcome them into the community."
Rochester Police recognize that this is a process, not a quick-fix.
"It's challenging, there are some very significant cultural differences but I don't think they're insurmountable. I think it's going to require some patience, it's going to require a series of these meetings that we'll continue to do," said Commander Harris. "I mean we're dedicated to getting it done and to make the people here not only are safe but that they feel safe and they're welcomed."