Clarification (12:14 am October 20, 2010): This story did not include a group working with La Voz Translation Services. Chapel Hill police are also working with the organization.
In an area with a growing Latino population, it’s becoming apparent that some local police officers don’t know their Spanish.
To combat the language barrier, senior Ahna Hendrix is creating La Voz Translation Services, a volunteer-based program working to provide local police departments with face-to-face language translation.
With only a few bilingual officers, translation efforts between police and non-English speakers are poor at best, said Carrboro police Capt. J. G. Booker.
“It’s a pressing issue right now and is only going to continue to be more of an issue,” he said.
The Latino population spiked 936 percent between 1990 and 2000, reaching a total of 2,062. The only translation service available to the departments is the “language line,” a phone number that connects officers to people who speak both Spanish and English.
“Putting someone on the phone in the middle of something scary is not the easiest way for communication to begin,” Hendrix said.
Although the details aren’t completed, Hendrix said police officers would call in volunteers to help translate for Spanish-speakers.
Hendrix, who worked with the Carrboro Police Department during the summer, said she hopes to have the program up and running by the end of the semester.