For Vegelin Escoto, it was a priority to be at Clinton High School to receive essential information regarding law enforcement in her community.
The third annual Latino Community Meeting was held Thursday night at the school. Its purpose was to help bridge the gap and break down barriers to form better relationships.
“It was really important to be here,” Escoto said. “The police showed that it’s OK to reach out.”
Clinton Police Chief Jay Tilley spoke to the community members about the police department and how to get assistance, if needed.Rocio Nunez was one many residents who received help during the event. An interpreter is available to help Spanish Speaking residents at the department located at 222 Lisbon St. in Clinton.
“There’s a lot of information that people don’t know about,” she said. “They can go over there and speak to someone in the language, which is not an issue for them anymore.”
Tilley noted that crimes against Latinos go unreported because of barriers such as language.
“If you are a victim of a crime, please report it to us so we can help you,” Tilley said.
One way, the residents can report crime and give by texting “tipcpd” to 847411.
“It’s another way that we get citizens to tell us about crime so we can serve you better,” he said.
Tilley said residents may also file complaints against officers and steps will be taken to address the situation.
“We just want to make sure police are always doing the right thing,” he said.
In connection to making grievances about a particular officer or situation, Tilley said the department is proud about receiving new body cameras.
“We see everything that the police officer sees,” he said.
While addressing the audience, he encouraged the attendees to research careers in law enforcement. Programs are available to help in the process. Tilley noted that the Clinton Police Department is diverse.
“We want our officers to look like the community they serve,” he said.
Before and after the event, Tilley and other officers spent time with those in attendance. Along with the Clinton Police Department, some of the other organizations in attendance included Sampson Community College, UCare, Clinton Fire and Rescue, the North Carolina Highway Patrol, Clinton Parks and Recreation, Sampson Regional Medical Center and the North Carolina License and Theft Bureau.
The Juntos Club assisted the police department with the event. Juntos, which means “together” in Spanish is to help students graduate from high school and have access to higher education. Katherine Rivera, advisor for Juntos at Clinton High School, said she was pleased with the turnout.
“I was very pleased with the turnout, Rivera said. “I think it was a very good idea for us to partner with Clinton PD. We just hope that it continues to grow.”
Steven Serrano, a North Carolina State University graduate and Juntos mentor, said the concept was an excellent idea
“As Latinos, we’re sort of disconnected with the community and that goes to our language barriers,” said Serrano, a graduate of Clinton High School. “Having events like these, it’s excellent, because it makes us feel like we’re a part of the community.”
He also said it was a good idea to get the young Juntos Club involved.
“We’re making them feel like they’re a part of the community,” Serrano said.
Arly Chavarri, a Juntos member from Sampson Middle School, is one of many club members who helped officers during the outreach event.
“I think it’s very good because some people are interested in being a cop,” Chavarri said.
She added that some Latinos are not comfortable with officers or law enforcement procedures.
“I think it’s good that they can build a relationship,” Chavarri said.
Tilley thanked the club for their assistance with the event and said young people, such as the club members, are the future of the community.
“The Juntos Club have shown me that we’re in pretty good hands,” he said.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.