Police Commissioner David Chong of Mt. Vernon, N.Y., held a news conference this month for Portugese-speaking media, report the New York Times. He was concerned about accounts from some of the fast growing community of Portuguese-speaking Brazilians: Robberies were going unreported, domestic abuse was going unpunished, speeding and parking tickets were largely uncontested because Brazilian immigrants were uncomfortable talking to the police. There are 201 officers in the Mount Vernon Police Department, a mixed force that is 59 percent white, 30 percent black and 8 percent Latino.
Ninety-seven countries are represented in Mount Vernon, including small contingents from Senegal and Cape Verde; large groups from the West Indian nations of Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, and a modest presence from China and Korea. Ricardo Braxtor, a naturalized American citizen from Brazil, said that with Chong's initiative, “some of us have suddenly felt safe to come out of the shadows.” At least one-quarter of the police officers are fluent in Spanish, French or Haitian Creole, but none speaks Portugese. Chong is recruiting Portuguese-speaking volunteers to help the police translate conversations with Brazilian crime victims.