Police departments sharing multilingual officers to translate when needed

Cities that are part of the Tactical Crime Suppression Unit say the effort can help victims, while saving cities money on contracted translators

A law enforcement unit shared by several Dayton-area south suburbs has begun using in-house translators to help investigate crimes.

The Tactical Crime Suppression Unit started the practice last year and has two fluent Spanish interpreters and one who speaks Mandarin, TCSU Director Bob Green said.

The TCSU serves Centerville, Germantown, Kettering, Miamisburg, Moraine, Oakwood, Springboro and West Carrollton, all Miami Valley Communication Council members.

Green said having officers translate languages saves the cities time and money while assisting crime victims.

“We have direct access to the different officers who translate … I can call them directly and they can respond. It saves a lot of time getting people out there as opposed to having to call a service,” he said.

“The chiefs are all on board,” Green added. “So, it speeds up our process, especially when we’re dealing with the victims. Our main concern in cases involving the victims is putting them at ease. And this assists them tremendously.”

The investigation unit leads or helps member cities in a variety of cases ranging from serious traffic accidents and hostage situations to officer-involved shootings.

The market for translation services increased 6.6% in 2023, according to IBISWorld, which provides research on thousands of industries.

For most of the cities served by the TCSU, languages other than English are spoken in fewer than 10% of homes, according to 2018-22 U.S. Census data.

Germantown topped the list, with 17.1% of homes featuring a language other than English spoken. That was followed by Centerville (10.2%), Moraine (7.7%) and Kettering (6.4%). Miamisburg and Springboro (both 3.4%) were the lowest, census data shows.

Green said he has not seen a significant increase in the need for law enforcement translators in those cities, but noted that Spanish seems to be more predominantly spoken than in the past.

In cases where outside translators are needed, the TCSU contacts firms which can charge between $100 to $200 for the first hour, Green said.

“They’re very helpful,” he said. “But it’s very costly to the cities.”

The first case in which the unit used an in-house translator was in Springboro, where a Moraine police officer who speaks Mandarin was called in, Green said. It was an investigation that involved arson, kidnapping and felonious assault.

The unit has not required translators in any 2024 cases yet, he said. Still, Green said he would like to broaden the unit’s in-house translation services.

“I think it’s great when people are bilingual, and we want to use them,” he said. “It’s just another asset to doing our job properly and fulfilling the community’s needs.”

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