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Back to Archives | Back to June 2005 Contents 

Hispanic Outreach and Intervention Team

By Steven W. Chalmers, Chief of Police, and Charles Tiffin, Ph.D., Major, Durham, North Carolina, Police Department

n 1997 the City of Durham and the Durham Police Department began an innovative program known as Hoist (Hispanic Outreach and Intervention Team). The program was formed through a federal grant and the North Carolina Governor's Crime Commission as an outreach mechanism of local government to help bridge the gap between municipal services, especially law enforcement, and the rapidly expanding Latino community in Durham. Today, Hoist is funded exclusively with local funds through the general fund personal services portion of the Durham Police Department's budget.

The original program design consisted of two bilingual civilian liaisons that helped crime victims and detectives. In 1997 the City of Durham enacted enabling legislation for the initial Hoist grant and project: "The ordinance is a grant project ordinance adopted pursuant to G.S. 159.13.2. The grant project authorized is a 'Hispanic Outreach Intervention Strategy Team' [that] will provide direct victim services to members of Durham's Latino community. The objective of this project is to reduce the rate of crime and victimization against members of the Latino community."

Today, Hoist consists of three positions augmented by two full-time sworn police officer positions. Furthermore, Hoist was designed to build Latino community trust in the police department and create more community engagement and empowerment as the Latino community grew in Durham. Hoist has been further enhanced by a comprehensive citywide Latino initiative that partnered the Durham Police Department with the Human Relations Department as well as other city agencies. Monthly meetings are held with the mayor, community members, police and human relations representatives, and each of the police district commanders. Another result of this initiative was the creation of a culturally competent outreach team that consisted of a civilian, a police officer, and a human relations staff person. Surveys were also conducted in the community.

There are other enhancements that have resulted from this citywide initiative. For example, cultural awareness training for all police employees, increased employment opportunities for Latino citizens, and Spanish language classes are offered free during work hours to city employees. These are all efforts to enhance communication and continue to build trust between the Durham city government, the Durham Police Department, and the Latino community.

Hoist was specifically created to address the growing Latino population and to ensure that a sense of trust was being established to support community-policing efforts in Durham. During the past eight years the program has evolved and reflects a diverse approach to communication, partnering and trust building. For example, representatives from the Hoist team have an office at the city's local Latino center, EI Centro Hispano. Also various programs such as soccer programs, education programs and youth shopping experiences are all part of Hoist's regular activities. Hoist also works closely with the police domestic violence unit to educate victims regarding their rights under the domestic violence laws.

Spanish-Speaking Citizens Police Academy
This initiative resulted in North Carolina's first Spanish speaking-citizens' police academy. The first academy, held in 2003, was successful beyond expectations. Forty-six Spanish-speaking city residents graduated from the six-week academy. Then in 2004 a second academy was offered and again it was met with the same level of community support and enthusiasm within the Durham Latino community. This initiative has helped strengthen the Durham Police Department's community policing philosophy and the level of trust between law enforcement and the Latino community.

Typical academy sessions have police commanders discussing their core mission and explaining how police efforts support the community. Extensive interaction, discussion and questions abound with translators assisting, as necessary, in the communication process.

Hoist Objectives
The program's work objectives and outcomes were established as the following.

  • Attend meetings with the Hispanic community organizations, non-profits, clubs, etc. Recruit pilot project participants and establish good rapport with the Hispanic citizens to identify Hispanic crime victims who have not reported the crime to law enforcement and to make them aware of the services available through the Durham Police Department.

  • Hoist representatives shall follow up with all victims of crime reported by patrol, criminal investigation division, or other departmental units as well as community agencies such as Rape Crisis, the Coalition for Battered Women, or the district attorney's office. When appropriate, the Hoist representative will link the Hispanic victims to resources in the community to assist them.

  • Hoist representatives shall assist uniform patrol and criminal investigation personnel in conducting on-scene and follow-up investigations and collecting evidence involved in crimes against Hispanic residents. In addition to providing translation and interpretation support, Hoist members will provide information to police department personnel which will help them develop more effective skills for working with Hispanic crime victims.

  • Hoist representatives shall train police department personnel in the area of multicultural awareness and about services available to assist them in investigating crimes involving Hispanic victims. Hoist representatives shall develop and maintain a profile of criminal activity with the Hispanic community in northeast central Durham, and they shall analyze and interpret the criminal profile of the affected community and mobilize them to address the problem.

More Than Seven Years of Success
Success of this effort is measured in terms of Latino citizen trust, confidence, and communication with the Durham Police Department. Durham has achieved a critical level of trust due to the tremendous participation in community events. In 2002 Durham hired the first Latino human relations director in the state of North Carolina. A citizen survey is being developed which will help evaluate and measure the success of this program. Tangible signs of enhanced trust are visible in the communication and in interactions between Latino citizens and police officers.

The Durham Police Department partners extensively with the Durham Human Relations Department on this program as well as with the mayor's office. Other involved agencies are the Durham Housing Department and the Durham Parks and Recreation Department. Each agency looks for opportunities to enhance the delivery of their unique services to the Latino community. Community organizations such as EI Centro Hispano and others help facilitate information exchange and communication.

An excellent example of how Hoist is working occurred during the 2004 devastating ice storm that hit North Carolina. Durham was without electricity for more than a week during subfreezing temperatures. On the first day of the outage, many Latino residents began to heat their homes with charcoal and gas grills, causing several fatalities and sending nearly 30 people to emergency rooms with symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. The preexistent communication infrastructure immediately went into action spreading emergency news and warnings in the community about this hazard. There were no additional fatalities and the number of individuals hospitalized dropped dramatically to six the next night.

Lessons Learned
There are two significant lessons learned from Durham's experience with the Hoist program and citywide initiative. The first is that it is essential that such a program be formed with the full input and consensus of the Latino community and its formal and informal leaders. Without this initial support, significant time would be unnecessarily spent on the requisite trust building that could have been accomplished on the front-end during the developmental and foundation stages.

Secondly, it is similarly important to involve as many allied city and county departments, agencies, and service providers as can be identified. In Durham, police partnered with the human relations department, the housing department, and the parks and recreation department. But the partnerships did not end there. The mayor's office took a major leadership role and helped to involve various community groups and leaders who work to help strengthen the continually evolving partnership and trust building that is taking place in Durham. It would be recommended to design such a program in close consultation with Latino community leaders. This will enable police chiefs to have these key leaders in on early discussions. Then, when it is time for this type of program or initiative to be announced, it will be more fully embraced as having come from both the police organization and the community. ■

For more information, write to Captain Fritz, Durham Police Department, 505 West Chapel Hill Street, Durham, NC 27701, or call him at La Barge, 919-560-4440.



From The Police Chief, vol. 72, no. 6, June 2005. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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