Community meeting to discuss Hispanic concerns - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Community meeting to discuss Hispanic concerns

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October 2, 2005

Tifton- Law enforcement and community leaders want the Hispanic community to know they are just as concerned about recent events as the Hispanic community. Sunday, a community meeting was held at Our Divine Savior Church in Tifton to discuss those concerns.

The discussion ranged from financial concerns to safety and while leaders addressed many of the questions they don't come with easy answers.

Some kneeled in prayer, many listened intently, and some made desperate pleas for more to be done to keep the Hispanic community safe. The Puente family lives in one of the affected trailer parks and can't sleep at night.

"We believe that this was not for money because, these men had wallets full of money in their pockets and so the concern is is this a racial issue, is this a crime of racial hate, that's why we are stressed," said Veronica Puente, a concerned resident.

More than 400 packed into the pews at Our Divine Savior to discuss their concerns. Community leaders say they're making every effort to ensure the Hispanic community's safety.

"Members of my department feel like in some way we have let Tifton down, but I want to assure you that we do the best we can to make sure everyone in Tifton is protected," said Chief Jim Smith, Tifton Police Department.

"We want your trust and we want you to rely on us to protect you and I want you to know that's our duty regardless of the color of your skin your nationality," said Sheriff Gary Vowell, Tift County Sheriff.

The biggest concern remains the amount of money in many Hispanic homes. They say this is just another crime waiting to happen and urged community leaders to do more to help residents deposit their earnings.

"That you open the doors for the people to go to the banks because this is a time bomb, people carrying money all the time every day everywhere because they can't open accounts," said Dr. Francisco Juarez Torres/Albany State University.

A temporary solution to the financial question was to look into the possibly of setting up trust funds through either the churches or Hispanic community leaders. Residents are hoping that today's discussion can open the lines for a more permanent solution.

Mayor Paul Johnson also discussed setting up another meeting with neighboring communities to better improve communications with Hispanics.

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