Yolo County DA’s office begins offering Spanish-speaking services

Yolo County DA’s office begins offering Spanish-speaking services

Photo Credits: ANDREA GONZALEZ / AGGIE

New services include website, WhatsApp number, Facebook page

The Yolo County District Attorney’s office rolled out many new Spanish-speaking services throughout late 2018 and early 2019. These services include a new exclusively Spanish website, a text message line, a WhatsApp line and a dedicated phone line run by Spanish-speaking staff. Additionally, there is also a Spanish-only Facebook page for the DA’s office.

Over 30 percent of Yolo County residents speak Spanish, according to Yolo DA’s administrative services analyst Kevin Clark. Of those who live in Yolo County, 20 percent speak Spanish exclusively. District Attorney Jeff Reisig, who worked on the team that expanded Spanish-speaking services, explained in a press release why it was important that such a large population be represented.

“We will not allow language to be a barrier to our community members knowing and understanding ongoing issues and the services my office offers,” Reisig said in the press release. “I am very excited that my staff is working on ways to be more inclusive — this is what our community expects and deserves.”

Before the new services, Clark explained, Spanish-speaking individuals would come into the office, and someone in the DA’s office would have to translate for them. While the office has been improving Spanish-speaking services for years, efforts were fortified during the second half of 2018. The new services allow more opportunities for outreach into Spanish-speaking communities. Additionally, the DA’s office does not ask for immigration status.

“Our DA, newly re-elected Jeff Reisig, is wanting to reach the message of crime prevention, fraud prevention — just the message of being there for victims and fighting for victims to those who don’t necessarily speak [English] in Yolo County and in [CA],” Clark said. “So it’s a bit of a disservice if the message is constantly out there in English and they’re not understanding it.”

While the services are relatively new, Yolo County is the first DA’s office in California that features a standalone website in Spanish. Other counties, according to Clark, may use a simple computer translation, or may not have a translation that is as comprehensive.

The URL of the website, according to Clark, further sets the service apart from other DA’s Spanish-speaking services.

“If you do a Google search [with] the first word [of] our website, the search comes up with the country of Chile and the country of Colombia,” Clark said. “So, obviously the word Fiscalia — which is the Spanish word for DA’s office — that’s obviously not that common. Instead [of] it just being another page on our English site, we gave Spanish speakers their own standalone website.”

Certain pages are not translated from the original, English website. There are, however, other resources and pieces of media that the DA’s office has made specifically for the new service.

“If you look on the website, there are really nice videos to introduce the pages so it can be something that can feel like their own, in their own language,” Clark said. “[These videos introduce] crime prevention, fraud prevention that traffics workers rights, [ …] just important issues that people need to know if for whatever reason they didn’t know it in the past.”

Accessibility is highlighted through the new Spanish-speaking services. The WhatsApp text message system, in particular, allows people who do not have phone service or data on their cellphones to contact the DA’s office.

“In our research, many Spanish speakers are using that because it does not use data,” Clark said. “So if you don’t have data or you can’t afford it, we’ve given an app for people who don’t have the means to contact us. We’ve already been receiving messages so we see that as a success.”

In the future, Clark hopes that the additional services can adapt to new technologies such as videos, audio files and other media projects. In addition, the Yolo County DA’s office will continue working on outreach programs.

“The Spanish-speaking population in Yolo County is a very important component of our community,” said Yolo County Victim Services Program manager Laura Valdez in a press release from the DA’s office. “They contribute to the configuration of what Yolo County stands for. The District Attorney’s office values their presence and wants to hear from our Spanish-speaking community.”

The office recently hosted their second annual youth leadership academy, led by the DA’s multicultural community council.

“We’re continuing to do [the academy], and we have restorative justice initiatives as well, continuing to expand restorative justice for the community is another initiative too,” Clark said. “We’re continuing to internally meet and discuss how we can best implement the Spanish-speaking services, so we’re in that implementation phase for 2019.”

Written by: Hannan Waliullah — city@theaggie.org