Police Feel Strain of Translating 70 Languages

Jon Doel, South Wales (Australia) Argus, February 4, 2008

GWENT’S top police chief revealed the force’s budget is being put under strain by the vastly increasing cost of interpreters for immigrants.

Chief Constable Mike Tonge told the Argus the force would have spent around £150,000 on interpreters fees and translation costs to help translate more than 70 different languages by end of the financial year.

That cost is double what was spent during the previous year and three times Gwent Police’s translation budget of £50,000.

In 2007, Gwent officers arrested 208 non-UK nationals, compared to 98 in 2004.

The release of the figures comes a month after Gwent police revealed there will be fewer police by 2011 because of a predicted £18 million budget deficit over the next three years.

These extra demands include expanding neighbourhood policing, dealing with serious and organised crime and monitoring sex offenders.

Mr Tonge said Gwent had seen a massive influx of eastern European, Iraqi and Iranian immigrants in the last few years.

Most, he said, were legal economic migrants, with a small minority entering the country illegally.

He added that language difficulties caused great problems for officers, leading to delays in dealing with incidents as well as extra expense.

“We feel the budget is getting stretched and we would like more help. We feel we should have more money,” he said.

But he added: “I am a realist as well and understand the pressure on the public purse is great.

“The police force is good at meeting extra demands. We get on with our job as best we can.”

Mr Tonge said a massive investigation into Vietnamese organised crime had also contributed to the increase in arrests following the death of Nguyen Tran, who was brought in to the Royal Gwent Hospital, Newport, in November 2006, fatally injured.

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