Salvadoran native Rosa Alvarez, left, of Favorita Salvadorena Producto, receives a flyer from Dougherty County Police Detective Tamiko Whitlock during Thursday’s law enforcement outreach program on East Broad Avenue. Bilingual officers from Albany Police Department, Dougherty County Police and Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office canvased the Latino community with informational flyers and safety tips.
ALBANY -- Law enforcement officials took crime-tip brochures and their good will into the Latino community Thursday.
After recent violent crimes targeted Latinos, the Albany Police Department, Dougherty County Police Department officers and Dougherty County Sheriff's Office deputies spent the afternoon assuring Latinos that they are also part of the community that deserves to be protected.
"We want people to know that we are there and they can turn to us," said Albany police Cpl. Jorge Lopez. "We have Spanish-speaking officers."
The Albany police have at least three officers who speak Spanish and other agencies also have Spanish speakers. The cooperation between the agencies allows them to borrow Spanish speakers if needed.
In addition to Crime Stoppers at (229) 436-TIPS (8477) there is a Spanish-language APD-COP Tip Line at (229) 434-2677.
The outreach effort started along the 2300 block of East Broad Avenue where Saul Martinez had a knife put to his throat in a robbery on Christmas Eve.
The block features several stores with Spanish names. Sheriff's Sgt. Santos Ruzgonzalez handed a stack of brochures to a man outside a store. The brochures from each of the agencies were written in Spanish and included tips, such as lock car doors and don't walk around alone for the community.
All the brochures had law enforcement agency phone numbers on them and urged people to call when needed. The man asked for more brochures.
"He wanted more so that he could take them to his pastor at church to give out," Ruzgonzalez said.
Ruth Cornejo at Variedades Latinos shop shyly said that she thought the police outreach was a good idea. When her son Edwin arrived and translated, she opened up more.
"We think there should be more Spanish-speaking officers," Edwin said. "Some people are still afraid to talk to police."
The police are using the resources they have at hand, said Phyllis Banks, APD spokeswoman. There have been instances of Latinos stepping forward to help out with translations in crime situations, she said.
About six law enforcement personnel stopped by the stores along the block, many times having conversations with Latinos as they left brochures on store counters.
The group then headed to Paradise Village, where an armed assault and robbery left 45-year-old Augustin Cobrera-Lopez wounded above an eye Monday.
The law enforcement representatives also passed out brochures along the 1000 block of Dunes Road, where Latinos have also experienced crime.
Lopez said that targeting Latinos could be because they are thought to carry cash rather than use banks. He added that Latinos could expect the highest level of police protection that everyone else does.