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New Immigrant Communities: The Need for Community Policing

Immigrants today are transforming the United States, and not just in areas historically associated with immigration, such as California and New York. Since 1990, Nebraska, Kentucky, Minnesota and Idaho have all seen more than a 200 percent increase in their non-U.S.-born populations.

That's why working effectively with immigrant communities is a growing concern for U.S. law enforcement professionals. For community policing to be effective, police must establish trust and partnerships with area residents—a task that can be more difficult when language and cultural barriers interfere with ease of communication.

Read the documents in this section to learn how law enforcement agencies are building stronger relationships with recent immigrants, and how they cope with particular issues—such as day laborer sites—that can arise with some immigrant populations.

Communicating Across Barriers

Law enforcement agencies may face many challenges in new immigrant communities, such as dealing with nationality-based youth gangs and effectively communicating with victims, suspects, and the general population in their jurisdiction. Utilizing the community policing principles of partnerships and problem solving, agencies can begin to address many of these challenges. Effective communication between the public and the police is essential to community policing efforts.

Communicating with individuals whose primary language is not English and who have a limited ability to understand, speak, read, and write English is a significant issue. Such individuals are referred to as being "limited English proficient" or LEP. In order for law enforcement agencies to be able to partner and work with these individuals to address public safety concerns, they must first be able to communicate with them.

To address this challenge and other related issues, the COPS Office has conducted numerous projects including facilitating focus groups and developing relevant research and publications. In addition, nonprofit groups such as the Police Foundation, Vera Institute of Justice and International Association of Chiefs of Police have resources related to this issue.