Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Crimes happen every day across the Midlands, and while chances are that somebody knows something about what happened, police say not everyone is willing to talk, including many Spanish-speaking residents.
“We have had several incidents in the past where we have had Hispanics that were victimized or they were somebody who witnessed a crime and they’ve been hesitant to call law enforcement. And we really want to change that,” said Kevin Cornett, Chief of the Springdale Police Department and Vice President of CrimeStoppers.
Cornett said he hopes to reach the Hispanic community to let them know there’s no reason to be afraid to call in a tip about a crime.
“They think that we're going to come in there and maybe look at whether they're here legally or not and want to deport them and that's not the case,” said Cornett.
It’s not just happening in Springdale. Officer Luis Feliciano, with the Cayce Department of Public safety, said his department is trying to fix the same problem.
“"From previous experience, they show up to the scene and they disappear on me. And sometimes I have to go talk to them and approach them in Spanish because they're surprised,” said Feliciano. “Once you make them feel comfortable, they’ll give you some information but they’re reluctant, being afraid of course.”
While officers like Feliciano and Chief Cornett are hoping to break the barriers, CrimeStoppers, an anonymous tip line, is launching a new push to reach the Hispanic community.
Posters with information in Spanish are being printed, and there is new Spanish tip line. Callers in the Midlands are transferred to bilingual CrimeStoppers’ operators out of Texas who then gets the information to the appropriate agency in South Carolina.
“Nobody is going to know your name. Nobody is going to know where you live. If you call and give us information so we can try to get somebody off the street we're not even going to try to find you. You can't with Crimestoppers. It's anonymous. "
If you have a tip that might help police get a criminal off the street, you’re encouraged to call is 1-888-Crime-SC.
"I hope that we get more of the Hispanic community that's willing to call. And at least give the anonymous tips to CrimeStoppers and feel comfortable doing so that they're not going to be targeted."
CrimeStoppers is also printing new yard signs in English and Spanish that will go up at crime scenes.
For more information in Spanish, watch this video with Officer Feliciano.