By Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Latinos in Los Angeles are lodging fewer reports of rape and spousal abuse to police so far this year amid heightened concerns among immigrants that contact with law enforcement could lead to deportation, police Chief Charlie Beck said on Tuesday.
Beck cited 41 fewer reports of rape - down 25 percent - and 118 fewer domestic violence complaints - a 10 percent drop - among the city's Hispanic residents since January, compared with the same period of 2016.
Those declines, coinciding with President Donald Trump taking office as he vowed to step up deportations of immigrants who entered the United States illegally, were not seen in the crime reporting of other ethnic groups, Beck said.
The trend suggested a growing mistrust of the criminal justice system among Latinos as the Trump administration has pressed state and local law enforcement to assist U.S. immigration agents, the Los Angeles Police Department said.
"While there is no direct evidence that the decline is related to concerns within the Hispanic community regarding immigration, the department believes deportation fears may be preventing Hispanic members of the community from reporting when they are victimized," the LAPD said in a statement.
Beck himself suggested as much at a news conference with Mayor Eric Garcetti to announce new steps to shield immigrants who might be targets of the Trump administration's enforcement crackdown.
"Imagine your sister, your mother, not reporting a sexual assault for fear that their family will be torn apart," the Los Angeles Times quoted Beck as saying at the event in L.A.'s predominantly Lincoln Heights neighborhood.
Los Angeles is one of dozens of municipalities and local governments across the country that have declared themselves "sanctuary cities," overtly refusing to cooperate in federal immigration enforcement.
Like police in many of those cities, the LAPD has barred its officers from checking the immigration status of individuals they arrest or from keeping them locked up longer than otherwise warranted at the request of federal agents seeking to deport them, absent a court order.
Garcetti issued a directive on Tuesday extending those policies to airport police, port police and firefighters, while prohibiting all city workers from using public facilities or resources to assist with federal immigration enforcement.
The directive also requires every city facility and service be made available to all Los Angeles residents, regardless of immigration status, and that personal information submitted for enrollment in city programs and services be kept confidential.
(Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Michael Perry)