DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — It’s a growing concern in the community that’s seen at least 20 armed robberies targeting Durham Hispanics since July.

Durham Rapid Response is supporting the victims, including the owner of a local Mexican bakery where the same crime took place.

“He’s suffering because of the crime,” Durham Rapid Response founder Ivan Almonte said. “And I can see in his eyes that he’s afraid… The entire family has been going through all these experiences which increase the trauma in the community. For me, it’s unacceptable. What else can happen to our people?”

Since late October, Durham police officers responded to seven armed robberies where the suspects have targeted victims at Hispanic businesses. 

Multiple victims have reported either being robbed in the parking lots of these businesses or followed home by the suspects and then having their valuables taken at gunpoint.

As the Deputy Director of the NC Congress of Latino Organizations, Maria Calvopina also works with some of these victims.

“It makes me think that our community, the Latino community, is very vulnerable,” Calvopina said. “And probably, they are lacking a lot of information about how to take care of themselves.”

Calvopina believes part of the issue is a lack of action from police. But DPD said it’s doing focused patrols in certain areas the robbers have targeted.

 “Just because you may not see a police car doesn’t mean someone’s not around because we’ve definitely been very active in cases before where our robbery unit has conducted surveillance operations, covert operations to prevent these and also apprehend the suspect,” DPD Criminal Investigations Division Lt. Stephen Vaughan said.

Police have made some arrests, but others are still on the loose. Calvopina also said some of the reasons for the robberies could be attributed to stereotypical thinking and that some victims might stay quiet.

“I think part of that is because the Latino community used to keep cash in their pants,” she said. “Also, I think because sometimes the Latino community feels like they don’t have the voice and that they cannot report this kind of crime. Even [with] their documentation status, their immigration status, they can still report these crimes.”

While the crimes continue, Almonte said families are losing hope and he wants more bilingual resources to enhance the community’s relationship with police.

“My community feels that their voices are not being heard or that we’re invisible to other people,” he said.

The NC Congress of Latino Organizations is attempting to schedule a second meeting with the police chief, but they are still waiting to hear back.

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In early September, Durham police investigated four carjackings and one armed robbery where all the victims were Hispanic women.

Durham police asks people to remember some additional tips to stay safe: 

  • Park in well-lit areas.
  • Assess your surroundings for suspicious persons before exiting your vehicle.
  • Don’t leave unattended vehicles running.
  • Have your keys ready when approaching your home or vehicle.
  • Do not walk alone in dark areas.
  • Refrain from carrying large amounts of cash with you.
  • If you are confronted, always cooperate with the robber. Your life is more important than items of material value.
  • Call 911 as soon as possible after the robbery. Provide the dispatcher with as much information as possible.
  • Do not be concerned about your immigration status if you are a foreign national when reporting crime. Please report all suspicious activity and crime by calling 911.

Anyone with information about the recent incidents is asked to call Sgt. J. Clark at (919) 560-4440 ext. 29407. Anonymous tips can also be left through Crime Stoppers at (919) 683-1200.