May 29, 2008
by Kathleen Miller, The Examiner
The Montgomery County street corner that played host to a homicide and a carjacking Tuesday has long been on local leaders’ minds.
The Silver Spring intersection of University Boulevard and Piney Branch Road is not so much a crime hot spot as it is a source of frustration: the 7-Eleven and Exxon Station lots there are becoming more popular with day laborers than a county-funded day labor center just half a block down.
Leaders of CASA of Maryland, the immigrant advocacy group that runs county day labor centers, sent workers to the intersection several times a week throughout 2007, imploring workers to use their facility. The center is heated, has staff to record job placements and lawyers ready to pursue employers if they don’t pay workers.
Nonetheless, throughout 2007, 50 to 80 workers a day looked for jobs at the Exxon and 7-Eleven at the intersection, roughly the same number who signed up for work at the center. Now, with the downturn in the economy, those numbers have doubled, according to Hispanic community police liaison Officer Luis Hurtado.
“There’s no jobs to be had,” Hurtado said. “And so the crowds are getting bigger and bigger — I would say they’ve doubled in these areas and throughout many Silver Spring 7-Eleven parking lots.”
Hurtado said he’s worried the sagging economy, the downturn in the housing market and lack of construction jobs will have more detrimental effects.
“We’re seeing an escalation in crime committed by Latino males, and we’re seeing an increase in Latino crime victims, like the storekeeper who was killed this week,” Hurtado said. “We’ve arrested people who tell us they just need to feed their families.”
Maryland Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez says people need to pay attention to crime victims as well.
“I think what went missing from a lot of the reports of this tragedy was the fact that the victim was an immigrant,” Gutierrez said. “He was a hard-working El Salvadoran immigrant just trying to get by, like most of the people who come to our country.”