Vieques Against Crime Arm Puerto Rico Police with Rosetta Stone

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Police commander makes commitment to creating bilingual force on popular tourist destination of Vieques Island

A citizens’ organization on the tiny island of Vieques, Puerto Rico, has taken matters into their own hands to help teach their local police officers how to speak English. With the blessing of the regional police commander, Vieques Against Crime (VAC), a non-profit victim’s advocacy organization, has begun to equip the agents and officials of the Vieques District of the Policia de Puerto Rico with Rosetta Stone learn-to-speak-English software to use in their police cars on duty and take home for additional study.

“There’s already a waitlist for the software,” said PRPD Sgt. Dennis Roman, commander of the Vieques district. “Our officers want to be able to communicate with the one-third of the island’s population who doesn’t speak English. We also believe it’s critical to have a bilingual police department because of the explosion in tourism over the past few years.”

Since the U.S. Navy returned the military base lands to the Fish & Wildlife department in 2003, Vieques Island has quickly become known a popular tourist spot that doesn’t require a passport.

In fact, Travel & Leisure magazine named Vieques “Best Island in the Caribbean” for 2008. The influx of full-time North American residents and other ex-patriots has created a massive communication barrier between the police and the community. The Policia de Puerto Rico does not require its officers to be bilingual, so participation in the VAC’s Rosetta Stone program is entirely voluntary.

PRPD Fajardo Regional Commander Antonio Lopez said he’s on the waitlist to get the software too. “I think it’s a fantastic opportunity. This is the way that they train the U.S. military to speak other languages – the officers I’ve spoken to are grateful for the opportunity to learn such a useful professional and life skill on the job.” Lopez added that having more bilingual officers makes Vieques Island an even safer place for residents, tourists, and even the Policia de Puerto Rico themselves. “When the community and police can talk to each and exchange information easily, the whole culture of the island changes. It becomes a very unfriendly environment for criminals.”

Vieques Against Crime (VAC) is a non-profit, citizen-funded organization dedicated to making Vieques Island the safest Island in the Caribbean.

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Sandra Malone
Vieques Against Crime
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