Friday, April 10, 2009

That this makes news is amazing

Sgt. Karen Alsup, head of the police Crime Prevention Unit in Norfolk, hit on the idea of translating a robbery-prevention tip sheet to Chinese restaurants after 17 businesses were robbed last year and three more were victimized in January. There hasn't been a Chinese takeout robbery since.

From The Virginia Pilot

Sometimes it's not what you say, but how you say it.

Sgt. Karen Alsup, head of the police Crime Prevention Unit and a former robbery detective, kept hearing about local Chinese takeout restaurants and their delivery drivers getting held up. After being asked in October to conduct a security survey for Dragon City, off Colley Avenue, she wanted to do more.

She knew the department had an officer dedicated to working with the Spanish-speaking community, including acting as a translator.

Then Alsup was nosing around on her office computer and came across a built-in translation function in her word-processing program.

A robbery-prevention tipsheet for businesses was on her screen. She clicked the tab for "Chinese" - and a new crime-fighting effort was born.

Police distributed the newly translated tipsheets to the 17 businesses robbed last year and the three victimized in January. They began handing them out around town, to an additional 20 eateries so far.

There hasn't been a Chinese takeout robbery since January, Alsup said. She doesn't entirely credit the tipsheets, but she and others say they've helped.

"If you talk to them in Chinese, they know better," said Peter Chang, who with his wife has translated Chinese for the Red Cross. "It will help them quite a bit."

Alsup had contacted the Red Cross to verify her computer's translation, knowing the organization used translators. Chang sent the documents to a retired university professor with whom he taught at Norfolk State University, who pronounced them accurate.

The workers at Dragon City have said they feel "much safer," said Tina Chen, the manager's niece. "They said it was easier" to understand.

And the business added a security alarm system, she said, which was one of the tips. Others include not keeping back doors propped open, not covering windows with signs, and reducing the amount of cash kept on the premises.

"They gather around and look at it, like it's a trophy," said Officer Sandy Parker, who helps distribute the Chinese fliers. "So we've gotten a great response." Alsup, a 13-year department veteran, said another intent is to improve the rapport between police and Norfolk's varied residents.

"It's not really any kind of rocket science," Alsup said. "It's just an idea I had."


No, it ain't, Alsup. We actually have bilingual liason officers in Australia. And most important info gets translated. Oh, and when we go to a crime scene and people don't speak English, they get interpreters for free.

I dread to think what came out in Chinese when Alsup pressed the "built-in translation function button". Somethink like the menu stuff I wrote about last night?

And all these little take-away workers gathering around a piece of paper as "if it was a trophy" is just so patronizing, it makes my stomach heave.

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