Last month a Latina living in Bluffton, South Carolina called La Voz Latina to complain about some young men in her neighborhood who had threatened her family with violence. We told her about a new service the Bluffton, S.C. Police department has established to make it easy for Spanish-speaking residents to contact the department with questions and concerns.
When callers dial the Hispanic Hotline at 1-843-706-7806, they hear the following message:
“You have called the tip line for the Bluffton Police. Please leave your information after the tone. If you wish to speak with an officer in Spanish, please leave your phone number. Thank you.”
According to Joy Nelson, Community Relations Manager for the Bluffton Police Department, the city wants to improve communications with its Hispanic residents.
“Hispanics comprise nearly 20% of Bluffton's population and we are always looking for ways to serve them better,” said Joy Nelson. “We realize that some residents may be reluctant to call us because of worries about their immigration status or because their past experiences with police may not have always been positive. But I want to assure them that our concern for their personal safety and security is the same as it would be for any other Bluffton resident.”
Nelson said there are currently two officers on the police force who speak fluent Spanish- Bonafacio Perez and Jason Rodriguez. She said the department occasionally enlists the services of three bilingual chaplains who, in the past, have volunteered to serve as interpreters at the scene of an auto accident.
“We always encourage residents to dial 911 in case of an emergency, but this system is designed to send an email alert to one of our Spanish-speaking officers anytime someone calls the hotline and leaves a voice message,” Nelson said. “It is monitored 24-hours a day so we can respond quickly if the need arises and callers who use this phone service remain completely anonymous.”
Nelson said the Bluffton Police Department is looking for other ways to be proactive in providing useful information to its Hispanic residents.
“We understand that it may be difficult for new residents to keep up with some of the rules and regulations that are enforced here,” she said. “For instance, it's important for drivers to understand that if they see that a school bus on the highway has stopped and engaged its flashing lights, all drivers moving in both directions are required to stop until the bus driver turns off those lights.”
The Bluffton Police Department is located in the Buckwalter Place Shopping Center behind the McDonald’s Restaurant on Buckwalter Parkway. Their address is 101 Progressive St., Bluffton, SC
The number for the Hispanic Hotline is 1-843-706-7806.