Suffolk County Improves Relations With Immigrants 3 Years After Hate Crime Death

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

When Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadorean immigrant, was stabbed to death in 2008 by a white teenager, anti-Hispanic sentiment on Long Island vaulted into spotlight.

Three years later, on the anniversary of Lucero’s death, officials and immigration advocates said that Suffolk County has made significant strides in addressing the problem. Still, some issues, as a recent letter from the Department of Justice suggested, continue to linger.

Lucero, 37, at the time of his death, was attacked by seven teenagers in Patchogue. Jeffrey Conroy, 20, who inflicted the fatal wound on Lucero, was convicted last year of manslaughter as a hate crime and sentenced to 25 years in prison. He and other teenagers told prosecutors they went out on November 8, 2008, looking for Hispanic men to attack, an activity they referred to as “beaner-hopping.”

In 2009, Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit that tracks activities of hate groups, issued a report that found Latino immigrants in Suffolk County were “regularly harassed” and “taunted,” and that statements by politicians and law enforcement officials about immigrants were “fueling the fire.”

The Department of Justice launched an investigation into the Suffolk County Police Department’s patterns and practices that same year.

In an interview with WNYC, SCPD Assistant Chief Patrick Cuff said the department had implemented a number of changes since Lucero’s death. They include having Spanish translators in each precinct, teaching Spanish to new recruits and assigning a Spanish speaking investigator to the Internal Affairs Bureau. Police officers and day laborers also meet to talk and play volleyball.

Following its investigation, the Department of Justice sent a letter to the police department in September suggesting non-mandatory improvements in the way they investigate hate crimes and other practices. Cuff said the department was in the process of drafting its response.

DOJ has still has not made the final finding on the claims that the department engages in discriminatory policing, or that it fails to investigate crimes and hate-crime incidents involving Latinos.

Lucero’s family filed a civil rights lawsuit claiming authorities failed to prevent the killing. Last week, a U.S. District Court judge dismissed the suit against Patchogue and Brookhaven. The claims against Suffolk County and SCPD can still move forward.Amol Sinha, director of the Suffolk County chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the tragic event has brought about important steps forward.

“One of the biggest positive changes that has happened is that the conversation about immigrants’ rights and bias-based crimes has come to the forefront in Suffolk County,” he said. “And I think that was a really important move.”

He added, “It’s good to know Marcelo didn’t die in vain,”


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Comments [3]

Jessica Graham

I volunteer some of my time to help nonprofits with their websites. I worked in IT for 23 years and was a professional webmaster too. I've helped eight organizations so far. Do you have any interest in getting a free website? I just helped an animal shelter and their site is really nice now. I helped a women's center before that.

Jessica Graham.

Dec. 20 2012 01:13 PM
Richard Keefe from New Market

Less than a month after Mr. Lucero was murdered, two other Ecuadoran immigrants, brothers Romel and Jose Suchuzhanay, were also attacked by thugs who beat Jose with a baseball bat.

The thugs attacked the Suchuzhanays because they were Hispanic, and, because the brothers were walking arm in arm, the perps mistakenly presumed them to be gay. Jose died in the hospital a few days later.

You won’t find anything on the death of Jose Suchuzhanay on the SPLC website, however, or the thugs, Phoenix and Scott, who murdered him, even though this is a Hispanic/Gay hate crime two-fer.

Why not? Because the thugs who attacked the Suchuzhanay brothers were black and the SPLC doesn't report on non-white perps.

Some "experts"

Nov. 08 2011 02:16 PM
Pat Young from Brentwood

The Suffolk Police rarely have interpreters available to assist crime victims and they have recently refused to use interpreters at community liason meetings in immigrant-dense meetings. The Dept. Of Justice letter in Sept. did not address ancient history, it discussed current problems. Beyond the police, Suffolk county exec Steve Levy has never met with immigrant leaders since the killing and as recently as May he was backing divisive anti-immigrant legislation.

Nov. 08 2011 07:48 AM

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