KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith says his department recently handled a case where armed robbery suspects told undocumented victims not to contact police because of their immigration status.
In his recent blog post, Smith said the department was working to stop a pattern of armed robberies where the suspects told the victims, mostly older Latino men, not to report the crimes because KCPD would call Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Smith says those lies by the suspects allowed them to keep perpetuating more crimes. In this specific case, the robberies began in 2018 with four or five cases and then resumed again in May 2019, with another four or five cases.
One of the suspects has been arrested and charged with two counts of armed robbery and two counts of armed criminal action. More charges are expected soon against other defendants.
Smith says that the department doesn't enforce immigration laws and they never ask about the immigration status of a victim or witness.
"It’s irrelevant to our duty," Smith said. " 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."
He went on to say that officers at East Patrol built relationships with workers at Hope City and that was how they learned about the robberies.
"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," he said.
Earlier this summer, a viral video showed KCPD assisting ICE in an arrest where a window was broken. Since then, Smith said they've been working to repair relationships with the community.
"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," he said.
He added that Spanish speaking officers will soon go to Spanish-language radio stations to explain KCPD's immigration policy.