Researchers Focusing on Houston Immigrant Crime

The issue of immigrant crime is more relevant than ever in Houston. An illegal immigrant will go to trial for the murder of a Houston police officer. At the same time, some area residents are blasting the city's unofficial sanctuary policy. As Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports, Houston's immigrant crime statistics are the focus of new academic research.

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Harris County prosecutors are preparing their case against Juan Leonardo Quintero, who confessed to shooting Houston Police Officer Rodney Johnson last week after being arrested during a routine traffic stop. The case is being held up as a violent example of crimes commited by illegal immigrants. But there's no hard data on how many illegal immigrants are responsible for the city's violent crime. Criminologist Ramiro Martinez says no one has comprehensively studied immigrant crime in Houston since the 1960s. Martinez is a Visiting Scholar at the University of Houston's Center for Mexican American Studies. He came to Houston to study the crime statistics and says he'll start with homicides.

Martinez previously examined immigrant crime rates in Miami, Chicago, El Paso and San Diego. He says Houston appears to have different crime patterns from those he's observed elsewhere. And he says Houston offers a unique look into immigrant influence on the population because of the city's size and proximity to the U.S./Mexico border.

Martinez says he will look at the impact that immigrants have on crime rates among the Latino community, which is where most immigrant homicides would be expected to occur.

It will take about a year to collect and analyze the data to determine how immigrants are affecting Houston's crime rate. Martinez says it's extremely difficult to determine which crimes are committed by illegal immigrants because many law enforcement agencies don't track people who are here illegally. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...