Community policing forum held in Burlington County

Burlington County law enforcement officials hope to bridge the gap between certain communities and make reporting crimes easier.

"It is a little bit of a barrier because sometimes they are scared," said Edson DeFreitas. He came out to a forum Tuesday on bias crimes and immigration enforcement. He's here to get answers that will help members of his congregation Assembly of God in Riverside.

"We're getting some communication from the police officers. Some of our Brazilian people they are getting in trouble because they don't know the law. Sometimes they commit some things they should not because they didn't know what the law was," said DeFreitas. The forum is part of the New Jersey Attorney General's community policing project. Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina moderated.

"It's very important that we are communicating with the people that we serve and then if any community that we serve is feeling vulnerable that law enforcement does everything we can to make them feel comforted and reassured," said Coffina.

The panel consisted of members of the Philadelphia Anti-Defamation League, representatives of the Muslim, Turkish, Latino and LGBTQ communities. Crystal Charley is the president of the Southern Burlington County NAACP.

"When we get the calls about incidents with law enforcement most times people are very upset. They feel violated but what really resonates is fear," said Charley.

Also of big concern bias crimes and incidents. The conversation stems from several incidents in the county involving hateful fliers left around the area.

"Those aren't always criminal but they are unsettling and we want to again ensure that people feel comfortable reporting it. Even if it's not a crime because anything that's a small incident today could be part of a larger pattern," said Coffina.