Marisol Contreras, a bilingual victim’s advocate at the Lexington Police Department, has worked for almost two years helping translate Spanish for community members. She said her role is to be a bridge.
“I know that the purpose of my role is to make the bridge and to make the community feel comfortable,” Contreras said. “It can be intimidating when we talk about migrant people coming to a new country who don’t know the system or how everything works. So, the fact that they see someone that sounds and looks like them makes them feel comfortable.”
Commander Chris Cooper said that it’s important for the police department to provide the same services, rights, and privileges to non-English-speaking citizens.
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“The person needing that language assistance could be a victim or somebody providing a witness statement,” Cooper said. “But if it was somebody who might be a suspect in something, they are also afforded rights that everybody else should have.”
Beyond translating word-for-word, interpreters are also helping officers understand another person’s culture.
Contreras gives a couple of examples that are relevant to the Latin American community.
“Domestic violence cases,” Contreras said. “It’s not easy for a female to accuse their husband of abusing them. Or immigration status. It isn’t something that is going to be a barrier for us to try to help them in a system and make them feel safer. There are some types of crimes that the victim might qualify for a visa.”
Contreras handles about 10—20 calls a week and currently has 10 cases in her caseload.
The Lexington Police Department said the city’s need for interpreters goes beyond them. The county attorney’s office and the Commonwealth’s attorney’s office are also in need of victims’ advocates who are bilingual.