By Michael Abeyta

THORNTON, Colo. (CBS4) – The southwest corner of Thornton was recently given a survey because of its large Latino population.

The survey is meant to help the city understand how they can better serve the community.

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Erin Mooney works for Cultivando, a local organization that focuses on fostering relationships between Latino communities and local governments.

When city officials asked Cultivando to help them identify how they can better serve their Latino community, they were ready.

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“If we don’t ask the questions, we keep doing what we are doing,” Mooney said.

She and her coworkers surveyed 350 Latino residents.

“It started out focused mostly on recreation, but as we started asking questions the city realized you can’t talk about recreation in a vacuum,” Mooney said.

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Organizers found that there are barriers preventing Latino residents from accessing parks and recreation centers because of the price of activities or a language barrier between Spanish speakers and city employees. They also found that language barrier extended to the police and created a culture of distrust.

“That pronounced fear is a massive barrier,” Mooney said.

That means most of the Latinos surveyed were unlikely to call the police when they need assistance. It may seem like an isolated problem, but as Mooney explains, Latinos who feel uneasy calling the police impacts the larger community.

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“We are safer when community members trust the police department, when there is a positive relationship and when victims of crime and witnesses to crime can call and cooperate,” Mooney said.

She says the city and the police are already working on improving relations with the Latino community, but it may take a while.

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“It’s hard work. I don’t like to say that it takes a long time, but it takes the work,” she said.

She hopes soon Thornton will become a better community for all people, no matter what language they speak.

“This is your community. You are welcome here. We care about your children,” she said.

Michael Abeyta is a 4th generation Coloradan and a Multimedia Journalist for CBS4. His stories can be seen on CBS4 News at 5 & 6. He is on Twitter! Follow him @AbeytaCBS4.

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