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Although public awareness of sanctuary has increased dramatically in the last few years, sanctuary cities have actually existed since the 1980s. Sanctuary jurisdictions are areas with policies that limit federal and local level cooperation in regards to immigration enforcement. The impacts of sanctuary policies are only beginning to be understood, but one outcome has emerged already: their impact on crime reporting. New research suggests that victims of crime are more likely to report their victimization when they reside in a sanctuary city.

In a new article, Ricardo Martínez-Schuldt and Daniel Martínez analyze 35,000 incidents of violent crime victimization and 135,000 incidents of property crime in 40 of America’s largest metro areas from 1980 to 2004. They find that Latinos and Latino-Americans are 12% more likely to report violent crime victimization when they live in a sanctuary city. Interestingly, the authors did not find any evidence for other ethno-racial groups’ odds of reporting crime victimization.

The higher rates of violent crime reporting found by the authors indicate that victims are more likely to come forward when they have the basic protections offered in sanctuary cities. The fact that immigrant community members were more likely to notify the police when victimized suggests that sanctuary policies may help establish trust in local law enforcement agencies. Sanctuary policies are therefore important for achieving equal justice for victims of crime, in this case permitting Latinos to report crimes without fear of their or their loved ones’ potential deportation. Conversely, the absence of sanctuary policies may undermine trust and the perceived legitimacy of local criminal justice systems.