PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) - The last U.S. Census Bureau reported that Hispanics make up 2.4% of Greene County residents.
"I think there's a growing population of Hispanics in this area, I really do, and I think language is a barrier sometimes," interpreter Simon Ramirez told Region 8 News.
Ramirez is one of a few interpreters in Greene County that the Paragould Police and Greene County court system turn to if language barriers arise. Ramirez has lived in Greene County since the 1990's and said he's worked as an interpreter for the past eight years.
"Well, like this morning I got called here at a quarter after 8 to be here at 1:30," Ramirez said. "I helped out with an individual with a DWI and explained all of his rights and what he can do and all the classes he has to take."
Ramirez said the language barriers can sometimes create big problems for Spanish-speaking residents.
"They might be in jail three days extra...of course they get credit for that, but sometimes they could've been out in 24 hours," Ramirez explained.
To alleviate that problem, Paragould Police can turn to interpreters like Ramirez to assist them when language barriers come up.
"We do have a few officers that speak Spanish. Not fluently but they can communicate," Paragould Police Captain Phillip Faulkner told Region 8 News. He said if a position came up it would be helpful, but they don't have that option right now.
"We'd have to have a position first," Faulkner said. "Unfortunately, we don't get that many bilingual people to apply."
Faulkner said certain apps for smart phones can make do in some situations but the interpreters often prove more beneficial for their department and the courts system.
"It's very nice to have because there is a language barrier," Faulkner said. "It always helps to have an interpreter."
Ramirez said he'll continue being an interpreter in Greene County because he enjoys it.
"If I can help someone and help the community I'm available."
Faulkner said there are currently two to three people who serve as interpreters for Paragould Police. Faulkner said they do so on either a voluntary basis or they charge for their services.