SAPD can translate for victims in more than 200 languages

Multilingual officers, translator services may encourage victim crime reporting

By Courtney Friedman - VJ, Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - In emergencies, every second counts, and something like a language barrier could hinder communication and mean the difference between life and death.

That is one of many reasons San Antonio police have translators on hand, bilingual officers able to interpret during critical times.

Public service announcements on SAPD's human trafficking web page are presented in six different languages, showing victims of all backgrounds there are outlets for them.

"You run into that with human trafficking, with juveniles who are afraid to get in trouble," said Special Victims Unit Detective Stephanie Campos.

Campos was born and raised in Germany and acts as a German translator for the police department when needed.

She believes if victims of abuse, trafficking and other crimes knew SAPD had translators, they'd feel more comfortable making reports and asking for help.

Right now, there are SAPD officers on staff who speak these 10 languages:

Tagalog
Ilocano
Punjabi
Mandarin
Vietnamese
French
Arabic
Spanish
German
Russian
Afrikaans

SAPD also utilizes a language service company, which offers interpretation support in 240 different languages. It can be accessed 24/7.

"We also offer Deaf Link at all six of our substations throughout the city and that's for our hearing impaired," Sgt. Michelle  Ramos said.

Ramos has called for a translator while on patrol.

"Having someone request a speaker and then, sure enough, someone keyed up on the radio and said, 'Yes I speak Mandarin, I'll be headed that way.' So it's pretty amazing," she said.

Whether in emergencies or just making an appointment to report a crime, Ramos wants people to know the language they speak will not prevent their voices from being heard.

Speaking to the camera in German, Campos said, "We would help anybody if they needed it."

San Antonio offers incentives for officers who speak multiple languages. They are eligible for higher pay.

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