archives 2005 » jan. 5th
When Mexican men and women living in South Philadelphia become crime victims, they're often too afraid to tell the police.
by Kate Kilpatrick
One day in his first year in the U.S., Rubén, now 26, left his apartment at 15th and Bainbridge, where he lived with seven other men, to go to work. With the other men at work too, the house was empty all day.
When Rubén returned that evening everything was missing--the TV, VCR, PlayStation, telephone, stereo, CDs (most of them Mexican), air conditioner, bed covers and clothes. Their collective hidden savings--totaling $11,000--were gone. None of the men spoke much English, or knew where to turn for help. One of the men told his boss, a restaurant owner, who said that because they were illegal, there was nothing he could do. No one contacted the police.
This story's far from unusual. Those in South Philadelphia's Mexican community say they're the victims of countless crimes--muggings, bike thefts, robberies, armed assaults, rapes--that never get reported.
Rubén's friend Jaime, 26, sums up a common experience: "You can drive, but you can't [legally]," he says. "So most Mexicanos go for a bike. In the restaurant business you get off at 12 or 1. If you're a dishwasher, you probably get off at 2. If you live at Seventh and Tasker, or Fifth or Fourth and Morris or Dickinson, mostly that part is bad. We can't afford to pay expensive rent to live on Fitzwater or Bainbridge. So most of the Mexicanos in South Philly live in dangerous places. I know a lot of my friends were assaulted by guys trying to get their bikes. We can't get a bank account, so we keep the money in our pocket. I don't know how they know that. We keep all our money until we send it home. So a lot of people get robbed."