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How translators help police investigate crimes

Posted at 4:55 PM, Nov 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-13 17:32:26-05

FAIRFIELD, Ohio -- Police are still piecing together what happened at the El Centanario on Dixie Highway around 2:30 a.m. Sunday. Six people were stabbed, and shots were fired but nobody was hit. 

Many of the bar's patrons were Hispanic or Latino. Language can be a barrier to the investigation of crimes in cases like that, but Fairfield police were lucky to have officers on hand who spoke Spanish. 

With people of so many other nationalities coming to the area, police often turn to outside linguists for help. 

In some cases, investigators have to rely on a friend of a suspect or victim, but Fairfield Police Officer Doug Day said that can be unreliable.

"You don't know if it's being translated correctly," he said. "You don't know if what we're saying is being given to them or they even understand the question at the time."

That's where firms like Affordable Language Services come in. Police call them for help with 100 languages.

Amy Canary, the general manager of Affordable Language Services' Blue Ash office, said they officer over-the-phone interpreting, on-site interpreting and other translation services. 

Those services are becoming more important as Fairfield becomes more diverse with a wide range of international residents. Day said police have needed translation when encountering people from Russia, the Middle East, Africa and various Spanish-speaking countries.

"You name it," he said. "Then, of course, in those countries [there are] several different dialects."

Affordable Language Services is set up to handle any of those.

"We are constantly watching the different institutions that help refugees get settled in the area," Canary said. "We work with hundreds of interpreters in the local communities to meet those service needs."

Still, the process can take time.

"It definitely slows it down," Day said. "There is a cost issue there, but the reality is we get past the cost issue because it has to be done. But, sometimes they're not always available, especially in a timely fashion."

Fairfield Municipal Court also uses translators two days each week to make sure anyone arrested gets a fair hearing. The number of cases where translators are needed has increased dramatically over the past 10 years, and that figure isn't going to go down in the foreseeable future.

"The reality is, that's tough," Day said. "You've got a lot of people to interview, and you've only got a couple of people to do it."

The demand is there and growing. Affordable Language Services is growing its business 10 percent month-to-month right now.

Police are asking for the public's help sorting out the stabbing at El Centenary. 

"We understand that there were people taking cell phone videos at the scene ... Anybody that has that, please give that to us at least so we can look at it," Day said.

The Fairfield Police Department is asking anyone with cell phone video of the incident to call 513-829-8201.