Crimes go unreported in Gardere because of language barrier
BATON ROUGE - Catching criminals in the Gardere area of Baton Rouge has become a problem. Many residents don't speak English, creating a barrier with law enforcement that has crimes going unreported. The East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office is hoping to break the silence.
Several people told News 2 they either fear police or believe it's impossible to report something because they don't speak English. Deputies say changing that mindset is important to make the community safer.
Noehmi Hernandez told News 2's Natalia Verdina a fatal shooting took place in front of her apartment earlier this year. It was the first reported homicide in East Baton Rouge Parish of 2016. Because she doesn't speak English, Hernandez says she didn't call the cops herself, instead opting to ask a neighbor.
The disconnect between non-English speakers and law enforcement is what EBRSO hopes to fix by teaming up with the Gardere Initiative.
"They can't stop a crime if it's not reported," Reginald Brown says. "They deserve to be safe, and that's what we want to give them."
Whether they're victims of a crime or a witness, the mission is to encourage non-English speakers to seek help. Language barries can be addressed with a translator, and a person's immigration status isn't a question officials are planning to bring up.
"While they are here, no matter how they came, we want them to be safe," Brown explains.
Safety is a concern Wiflredo Velasquez has lived with since he moved to Gardere eight years ago. He walks the streets during the day, but stays inside at night. He says there are too many criminals. He also says Hispanics are easy targets.
The Sheriff's Office and other agencies and organizations are hosting community meetings to answer questions and remind everyone they have the right to report what they see and experience.