It used to be that when Spanish-only Sacramento residents called the Police Department's non-emergency number, they were met with several unintelligible options in English.
Frustrated callers would sometimes hang up and dial 911, where they were assured a live respondent and could negotiate their way to a Spanish-language translator.
But starting on Tuesday, the department added a Spanish option for non-emergency callers seeking services in their native language, a move police said will enhance communication and free up dispatchers to handle true emergencies.
“Our dispatchers have been working diligently to provide (a Spanish option) for our community because we known that we have a large population that speaks Spanish," Sgt. Vance Chandler said. "We want to make sure that they have the opportunity to communicate with us effectively."
About 80,000 Sacramento residents over the age of 5 speak Spanish at home, according to the 2012-16 American Community Survey – about 18 percent of the total population over the age of 5. Of those, 37 percent reported speaking English "less than very well."
The Spanish-speaking community isn't the only group that will benefit from more tailored service, Chandler said, because Spanish-language callers no longer have to call 911 to communicate their needs.
"It's a huge win for our entire community, because that frees up a dispatcher who now can handle a priority emergency," he said.
When someone calls 916-264-5171 – the non-emergency line, used to reach dispatchers, obtain police reports, reach animal control and more – they'll hear a message in English directing them to call 911 for emergencies, followed by instructions – delivered in Spanish – to dial 9 to hear options in Spanish.
"It’s a huge advantage for the community ... to have those options in Spanish," Chandler said, "and the huge advantage for our dispatchers is it gives them the knowledge of knowing what the people in our community need.”