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September 25, 2006

Contact: Marisa Ramirez
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Noted Criminologist Ramiro Martinez Will Research,
Teach at Center for Mexican American Studies

HOUSTON, Sept. 25, 2006—The new Visiting Scholar at the University of Houston’s Center for Mexican American Studies (CMAS) wants to take a closer look at the Houston crime statistics. Criminologist Ramiro Martinez says immigrants and immigration do not increase demands on the criminal justice system.

“Latinos—immigrant and non-immigrant—are not as crime-prone as portrayed in the recent media,” Martinez said. “Houston’s crime statistics were examined in some of the first pioneering homicide studies in the 1960s and 1970s, but relatively little has been done in recent years. I am hoping to change that.”

As a CMAS Visiting Scholar, Martinez will research Houston Latinos involvement in homicides and other violent crimes. Most recently, he co-edited the book, “Immigration and Crime: Race, Ethnicity and Violence” (NYU Press, 2006). He hopes to collaborate with area law enforcement personnel for research purposes or to provide insight, if called upon.

“It’s possible that levels of Latino homicide might be lower than expected in heavily immigrant areas. In other words, levels of crime might be higher in places with fewer, not more immigrants, which suggests that as foreign-born newcomers move into poor communities they actually contribute to a decrease in levels of serious crime such as homicide,” he said.

Martinez plans to study the impact that immigrants are having on crime levels in Houston’s Latino areas.
“I believe that levels of Latino homicide and violent crime may be lower than expected in the areas with a large immigrant population,” he said. “Since we know that these foreign-born newcomers don’t have the same level of violent crime and homicide in their homelands, it’s possible that their moving into Houston’s poor communities may actually produce a decrease in levels of serious crime. I’ll be researching this to see if that’s the case.”

Martinez also will teach an undergraduate sociology course on Crime and Deviance in the Latino Community. A firm grasp of the information will be an important tool in combating popular media stereotypes that Latinos are high-crime prone or super-predator killers, he said.

“I want to answer some important questions, such as what gives rise to violence in some Houston Latino communities, but not in others? And also, how does the violence vary by race, ethnicity, age and gender, immigrant and non-immigrant status?” Martinez said. “Using homicide and census data from 1985 to now, I hope to find predictors that are mostly likely to influence violence and homicide. This would allow me to compare and contrast the factors shaping Latino homicides to killings of other racial and ethnic groups.”

His year-long position as a Visiting Scholar with CMAS is part of the program’s effort to generate research about the Latino community.

“Professor Martinez is one of the nation’s leading Mexican American criminologists and it is our privilege to have him as a Visiting Scholar,” Tatcho Mindiola, professor and CMAS director, said. “Dr. Martinez undoubtedly will bring distinction not only to CMAS, but to the University of Houston as well.”

The CMAS Visiting Scholars program solicits applications each academic year from junior and senior scholars in the social sciences, humanities, fine arts, communications and education. The program is also designed to attract scholars who may be interested in assuming a tenured or tenure track position at the UH.

Martinez is a native of San Antonio, Texas and most recently comes from Florida International University in Miami where he is an associate professor of criminal justice and public health. He is currently on sabbatical. He received his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and master’s in sociology from Southwest Texas State University, and his doctorate from The Ohio State University. His research interests include criminology, lethal and non-lethal violence, Latino studies and immigration. He has taught classes on race, class and crime, minorities in the criminal justice system, public health of violence and the nature and causes of crime.

For more information on the UH Center for Mexican American Studies, please visit

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