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How bilingual officers aim to ‘bridge that gap’ in Petersburg

Posted at 6:46 PM, Jul 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-25 18:54:39-04

PETERSBURG, Va. --  Police are working to bridge the gap between officers and Petersburg's  growing Hispanic community with three bilingual police officers.

One of those officers is Carlos Martinez, who has been with the Petersburg Bureau of Police for a year and a half. He said he knows how important it is for him to work on the project.

"I understand, being an Hispanic myself, that there's this lack of communication between the community and the police department," Martinez explained. "We're just trying to bridge that gap between the community and the Hispanic community."

Officer Carlos Martinez

Officer Carlos Martinez

In recent years, the Hispanic population in Petersburg has boomed. In fact, some estimates have nearly 1,000 Hispanics now living in the city's East End. That is nearly double the population recorded in the 2000 Census.

"I do believe we have more Hispanic population here than we had before," property manager Nikki Hansen said.

Hansen said the move to hire bilingual officers is ”greatly needed."

Nikki Hansen

Nikki Hansen

Crespin Sanchez, who speaks Spanish and English, said he is glad to see officers make this move into the community.

"Oh that's good cause we do need, you know, Spanish-speaking officers because most of these people don't speak English," Sanchez said.

Martinez said he hopes to build relationships in the community while he is off-duty and not in uniform.

"There's just that language barrier, so if we can connect that bridge, it helps everybody," Martinez said.

Officer Martinez visits residents at mobile home park in Petersburg.

Officer Martinez visits residents at mobile home park in Petersburg.