PLANO (CBS 11 NEWS) - Plano Police and volunteers hit the streets today to alert residents to a string of violent attacks that are targeting Hispanic men. There have been five since October...two of them as late as last week.
Neighborhood businesses are participating, posting flyers to raise awareness of the potential danger...while police take a more direct approach.
Detective Daniel Caballero and Sergeant Lindy Privett went to Plano markets and bazaars carrying a warning in Spanish....that Hispanic men walking alone have been targeted and violently robbed.
Police say there have been five attacks in recent months. A group of two or three young black men beat up the victims and took their money.
In the last robbery, the violence escalated. A mentally challenged man---Isais Vasquez, whose story aired on CBS 11 News earlier this week, was beaten with a shovel or ax handle. It took 14-stitches to close his wound.
Today, a friend of Vasquez, who bumped into the officers, was happy police were alerting others.
Word is getting around. Ruben and Josefina Zimarron saw the story on TV. Detective Caballerot translated, "She says since she's at home, she watches a lot of news, and she heard about it on the news, and they are concerned about it."
So are police. "It started off not as violent," said police spokesman Officer David Tilley. "And it seems like the level of violence is starting to rise, and that concerns us very much because where are they going to go from here?"
The warning hit home with Joe Lopez's family. He says in the Hispanic culture people prefer to carry cash instead of putting it in banks, and that makes them targets.
"I carry cash also, so if I'm walking down the street I'm going to be worried. And plus, Hispanic people are scared to call the cops because of status...immigration status."
Tilley says immigration status is not a factor. "We don't care about that. If somebody's a victim, they're a victim. They have rights and it's our job to go in there and investigate a crime."
Lopez says it's good that police are letting the community know of the danger. "Me, now that I know about this, I need to be more careful about what I'm doing," he concluded.
Police urge anyone who knows or sees anything to contact them. There's also a CrimeStoppers reward for information that leads to an arrest and indictment.
Plano police can be found on the web at www.planopolice.org.
North Texas Crime Stoppers are on the web at www.ntcc.crimestoppersweb.com or by phone at 1-877-373-TIPS (8477).
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