SCRANTON- In the midst of a rapidly increasing population and a drastic cut in the size of the police force, total crimes in Hazleton from 2001 to 2006 remained relatively stable, and the crime rate- incidents per 100,000 residents- actually dropped. That was the underlying story of this morning’s testimony by city police chief Robert Ferdinand at the ongoing trial in Scranton over Hazleton’s anti-immigrant ordinances.
Forget the Illegal Immigration Relief Act. Chief Ferdinand and the police department deserve a raise!
Since the introduction of the ordinance idea, Mayor Lou Barletta has been telling anyone who would listen that crime by illegal immigrants is crippling his city.
And yet consider these numbers.
• From 2000 to 2005, Hazleton’s population increased from 23,000 to 33,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
• In 2000, the city PD had 42 officers but went down to 23 in 2001 due to budget cuts. Today the department has 30 officers with three more in training.
Such numbers could be predictors of an increase in crime. But…
• In 2001, there were 1358 crimes in the city.
• In 2006, there were 1397 crimes in Hazleton.
In the intervening years, the numbers were similar with just a slight spike to 1578 in 2002.
This information, provided by the city’s police department, came out during Chief Ferdinand’s testimony under questioning by plaintiff’s attorney Tom Fiddler.
Before the morning was out, the defense, led by attorney Drew Adair, had the opportunity to question the chief. The contrast between the plaintiffs’ approach and that of the defense was clear. Our team combed through statistical evidence, and the defense focused on individual cases involving undocumented immigrants.
Fiddler led Chief Ferdinand through the stats on violent crime. Under the city’s violent crime index (VCI), undocumented immigrants committed no violent crime until 2006, when three such cases were reported. The VCI includes homicide, attempted homicide, rape, attempted rape, assault with a weapon, robbery with a weapon, and aggravated assault.
Chief Ferdinand insisted under both cross-examination and direct questioning that a lack of documentation of crimes by undocumented immigrants is not indicative that such crime was not happening.
“We don’t have any documents, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen,” the chief said.
Led by defense attorneys, Chief Ferdinand detailed multiple individual crimes, including the murder of Derek Kichline. He also noted that he has had no reports of harassment of Latinos since the passing of the ordinances and that business owners on Wyoming Street, which is identified as a hot-spot for crime and is a largely Latino area of town, have requested a greater police presence.
Chief Ferdinand will conclude his testimony this afternoon. The defense will also be calling an expert witness from the Center for Immigration Studies.
The testimony of plaintiff’s expert witness, Ruben G. Rumbaut, was taken in a video deposition and admitted into evidence. You can see his report here, and a find the results of a study he did with Walter Ewing here.
Andy in Harrisburg in Scranton