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Strategy: Multilingual Reporting and Education Services

Strategy Reaching out to immigrants who do not speak English through bilingual crime prevention and reporting services (i.e., employing . . .


Reaching out to immigrants who do not speak English through bilingual crime prevention and reporting services (i.e., employing bilingual community service officers (CSOs)) helps law enforcement agencies improve community relations.

Crime Problem Addressed

As the number of immigrants in the United States increases, so does the number of immigrant residents who become targets of crimes or witnesses of crimes. Because many of the immigrants do not speak English, a great portion of these crimes go unreported. Additionally, some of the immigrants never report crimes because they feared the police in their homeland and may think they will have the same experience in this country. Employing bilingual police officers and posting bilingual notices helps bridge both language and cultural gaps. By reaching out to the immigrant communities, police gain access to and protect the immigrant community.

Key Components

Programs using this strategy often hire bilingual police officers and publicize crime prevention and crime reporting information in the language(s) of the local immigrant population. Furthermore, they strive to build a cultural understanding between the police and the immigrant community to create even better relationships and greater trust. One way the police reach out to the immigrant populations is to set up substations. Substations are police stations located in the immigrant community where the CSO works. These stations serve a dual purpose: first, they provide a community with a police presence that helps deter criminal activity; second, community members do not have to travel far to report crimes or problems.

Key Partnerships

Some states provide funding to the police department to either hire bilingual personnel or educate the department on preconceptions that immigrants may have about law enforcement and the law. Additionally, the police department works to create a relationship with the immigrant community so that its members feel they can turn to the police. Community-based organizations within those immigrant populations work with the police and the immigrant community to provide information, services, and activities. The CSO also works with the media to create crime prevention programming for the radio and crime prevention news releases for newspapers in the appropriate language. Because many police departments cannot afford to set up these substations, the project may depend upon support from local businesses.

Potential Obstacles

Gang members from immigrant populations may work against what the police and the other organizations are trying to establish for the community. Also, law enforcement agencies must make institutional commitments of money, time, and personnel.

Signs of Success

Increases in reported crimes to the police by immigrants and heavy use of crime reporting hotlines in the respective language are just two of the indications that this strategy works. Also, trust has grown between the immigrant community and the police. Furthermore, bilingual CSOs are receiving recognition and commendations for their work.

Applying the Strategy

The Garden Grove Police Department in California received a grant from the state to employ two bilingual CSOs to create liaisons with the growing Asian population. About 50 percent of the 143,000 persons in the city are Southeast Asians, mainly Vietnamese immigrants. The police department has substations in the heart of "Little Saigon," where most of the Vietnamese live. In addition to being present in the community and going into schools and businesses to speak to the Vietnamese population about crime prevention, the CSO also hosts a question-and-answer radio program in Vietnamese. Because of the overwhelming positive response, the radio station increased the length of the program from one to two hours. A recorded increase in crimes reports followed (with the help of a hotline that does not require callers to leave their names), relations between the Asian community and the police improved, and the program has become a national model for bilingual hotlines.

Contact Information

Garden Grove Police Department
P.O. Box 3070
11301 Acacia Parkway
Garden Grove, California 92642

From 350 Tested Strategies to Prevent Crime: A Resource for Municipal Agencies and Community Groups

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