We say: Hispanics vital link in chain

Published 1:33 pm Friday, August 29, 2008

Cooperation is vital to the quality of life we enjoy.

The murder of five men in an apartment off the county’s most traversed byway highlighted that need in both positive and negative lights.

There’s no doubt it took the assistance of multiple agencies to identify both victims and suspects. It took the leadership of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and the help of Alabama State Troopers, U.S. Marshals, the FBI, local police departments and more. That cooperation was essential to bringing in suspects this quickly, a terrific coup for local law enforcement.

Because of that quickness, citizens of Shelby County — especially those that live along U.S. Highway 280 and Valleydale Road — can go to sleep feeling safer.

However, solving this case didn’t happen just because of law enforcement agencies. It also took the cooperation of a very distrusting Hispanic community. The U.S. Census Bureau shows that Shelby County’s population is made up of 3.3 percent Latino residents, not counting those still undocumented.

Many, if not most, of these residents avoid law enforcement for the fear of deportation. This is a relationship all branches of law enforcement would do well to improve.

Law enforcement in Shelby County can use this tragedy as an open door to improving that trust. This situation only highlights the necessity of having such a relationship.

The Hispanic community needs to know it has the benefit of protection, and the police need to know they can count on cooperation from Hispanics when it’s needed. Without a commitment to understanding the Hispanic community, Shelby County could be left in the dark about potential dangers to us all.