Latino Experiences with Crime

Access to Justice and Support

Photo courtesy of franky242 and

Research shows that in addition to facing higher rates of victimization for certain crimes, Latinos are less likely than the population overall to have access to the system intended to hold offenders accountable, to get a fair outcome when they do have access, and to receive the resources—such as victims’ compensation and mental health care—available to crime victims in general.

The first part of this section discusses disparities in the ways Latino crime victims’ cases are handled by law enforcement. The second part addresses barriers to Latinos’ access to victims’ services.

Justice Outcomes

When crimes against Latinos are investigated by the police, several studies suggest that they are less likely to result in arrests of the offenders than crimes with white victims. The researchers conducting these studies have controlled, to varying degrees, for characteristics of the crimes themselves (for example, the type of weapon used, the number of offenders, and/or whether the victim knew the offender), accounting for many “solvability” factors, and have still found gaps in outcomes for victims of different races.

Homicides with Latino victims in Chicago were less likely to be cleared (that is, solved by law enforcement) than those with white victims, according to two such studies (Alderden & Lavery, 2007; Litwin, 2004). This disparity held for both all homicides and gang-related homicides, when tested separately (Alderden & Lavery, 2007). Nationwide, homicides with Latino victims have been found less likely to be cleared than those with white or black victims (Roberts & Lyons, 2011). And homicides in Los Angeles from 1990 to 1994, in which nearly half of the victims were Latino, were more likely to be cleared when their victims were white (Lee, 2005).

The same disparity holds for victims of nonlethal crime, according to a rare study that investigates this relationship (Briggs & Opsal, 2012). Nationwide, robberies with Latino victims had an estimated 8.1 percent lower chance of leading to arrests than those with white victims, aggravated assaults with Latino victims were 3.2 percent less likely to lead to arrests, and simple assaults with Latino victims were 2 percent less likely to lead to arrests. Of the violent crimes the researchers considered, only sexual assault was not significantly different for the two groups.

Victims’ Services

Latinos report several barriers to accessing support for victims. Much of the literature on this focuses on domestic violence. In a series of recent interviews, immigrant Latinas who faced intimate partner violence (largely in Southern California) cited language barriers, immigration status, socioeconomic constraints, and law enforcement attitudes as barriers to getting help ending the violence (Vidales, 2010). Language access also proved crucial in a home-visit intervention program in New Haven, Connecticut, whose Latina participants were more likely to engage with police when interventions were conducted in Spanish (Stover, Poole, & Marans, 2009). And Latinas who had experienced intimate partner violence were four times as likely as those who had not to report unmet mental health need; in contrast, white women who had experienced intimate partner violence were two times as likely as those who had not to report unmet need, according to analysis of a national health survey (Lipsky & Caetano, 2007).

In a survey of Californians, Latino crime victims were less likely than white victims to say they knew about services that might have been available to them (Californians for Safety and Justice, David Binder Research, 2013). Both groups of victims surveyed had similar lack of knowledge of financial services (assistance with victims’ compensation and medical expense reimbursement), but Latinos were less likely to know about free or low-cost counseling (41.3 percent, versus 47.3 percent of white victims) and help navigating the criminal justice process (38.8 percent versus 44.5 percent). And the Latino crime victims surveyed were more likely than their white counterparts to be unaware of but interested in services.


Full citations for the references in this section are available here. Photo courtesy of franky242 and

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