MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) – Law enforcement officials in Nassau County said Monday they plan to reach out to immigrant crime victims and encourage them to cooperate with authorities to help prosecute the perpetrators.
Acting Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said at a news conference she is appointing an assistant D.A. to focus on the issue.
“Open communication and a sense of trust among victims, witnesses and the criminal justice system is essential to effective prosecution, regardless of the languages spoken or documentation status of victims and witnesses,” said Singas, who was joined by county police officials and others.
She said immigrants are often the targets of fraud, unscrupulous employers and landlords. They also are less likely to cooperate as crime witnesses, either because of language barriers or distrust of law enforcement.
“We want to send a message loud and clear to immigrants who are victims or witnesses: we speak your language, we are here to help you and we need your help to hold offenders accountable,” Singas said.
Acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter said his department’s policy is to not ask people about their immigration status.
Singas named Assistant District Attorney Silvia Pastor Finkelstein, who speaks Spanish and French, to head the program.
“We are encouraged that finally a step has been taken to be more inclusive of Nassau’s immigrant population and recognizing the value they bring to our community,” said Maryann Sinclair Slutsky, executive director of Long Island Wins, a nonprofit organization that focuses on immigration issues.
The D.A.’s office says about 20 percent of the 1.4 million Nassau County residents are foreign-born, according to the U.S. Census.
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