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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Complaint filed over Long Island police policies

Hispanic advocates claimed Tuesday that the Long Island police department that investigated the killing of an Ecuadorean immigrant fails to adequately investigate crimes committed by whites against Latinos.

In a complaint to the U.S. Justice Department, the national advocacy group Latino Justice contended that the Suffolk County Police Department discourages Latinos from reporting crimes.

Police and county officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but they have repeatedly said since the Nov. 8 killing of Marcelo Lucero that crime victims are not asked about their residency status.

Seven Long Island teenagers have pleaded not guilty to charges including gang assault after police say they surrounded Lucero and another man near a train station. The men were targeted by the group because they were Hispanic, police said, and were only the latest victims in what authorities believe was a marauding spree by the teenagers.

Lucero's companion fled and called for help, but the 37-year-old laborer was killed when he was stabbed once in the chest. The 17-year-old accused of inflicting the fatal blow is being held without bail, charged with murder as a hate crime.

Latino Justice also criticized Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, a staunch opponent of illegal immigration, for advocating various initiatives they contend created a hostile environment for Hispanics in Suffolk County. Levy has signed legislation requiring contractors doing business with the county to verify their employees are in the country legally. He also has supported crackdowns on overcrowded housing, which opponents contend unfairly targeted Hispanics.

A spokesman for Levy said the complaint "is coming from the same Cesar Perales who said that the county was engaging in racial politics when the county started to notify the federal government about those here illegally who had committed major crimes in Suffolk." [Mark Godsey]

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