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Police distributing safety tips
Fliers may help Hispanics avoid being robbed

NORCROSS - Armed robbery detectives know Hispanics are often the target of stick-ups for a couple simple reasons: They're known to carry cash, and they're reluctant to call the cops.

It's logical, then, that one of Gwinnett's most densely Hispanic police precincts - a sock-shaped swath around Norcross known as "westside" - is also a hotbed for armed robbery.

In 2006, for instance, more than 52 percent of victims in 900 reported robberies were Hispanic or Latino, a segment representing just 17 percent of Gwinnett's population.

To combat the violent crime, Gwinnett police have begun pounding pavement this year, delivering safety tips via fliers in both English and Spanish and interfacing with apartment complex managers.

The fliers discourage residents from carrying cash, walking alone or loitering in dark parking lots. The number to the Crime Stoppers Tip Line is bold near the top. Police hope the fliers are starting to look familiar to west precinct residents.

"A good part of (armed robberies) are concentrated into westside," said Gwinnett police Cpl. David Schiralli. "To us, it doesn't matter if you're illegal or not - a crime is still a crime."

Many illegal immigrants don't have the paperwork necessary to open a bank account, and therefore stow cash away in their pockets or at home, Schiralli said. Oftentimes they fear deportation should they report robberies to authorities, he said.

"If you're a victim of a crime, it's not up to (Gwinnett police) to determine your legalization status in the county," which could be under review by jail authorities and immigration officials should the victim be arrested, Schiralli said.

A cooperative spirit between police and the community is part of the new message on fliers.

Most of the apartment complexes targeted lie within the ethnic melting pot that is unincorporated, southwestern Norcross near the DeKalb County line.

The effort will be expanded to include other complexes in coming weeks, Schiralli said.

"The feedback received from both managers and tenants has been very positive," said Gwinnett police Maj. John Strickland, commander of the west precinct. "Getting the community involved is the foundation to reducing crime."

In general, robberies across the county have shown a steady decline since the 2006 mark of 900-plus.

Robbery reports dropped to 832 in 2007, then to 766 last year - a roughly 15 percent decline in two years, Schiralli said.