Hispanics in Richmond overcome many barriers to voice their concerns

 By: Nicole Bayne


Ten percent of the total population of Richmond is neither black nor white.  Each heritage comes with its own language, values and customs, so how is the city addressing the concerns of these people?

VCU student Marcella Taruselli is of Brazilian and Puerto Rican descent.  She speaks Spanish, Portuguese and English and considers herself very well adjusted, but her parents have growing concerns about living in Richmond city.   Neither of Taruselli’s parents speak English well, falling into the 9 percent of the total foreign population who speak a language other than English at home.  Marcella’s mother, Lara Taruselli, is worried.

“It’s the crime.  There’s so much noise and too many robberies.  Many places are like Jackson ward where they look nice, but it’s too dangerous for young ones, for anyone but hard to get people to take this seriously,” said Lara. 

Taruselli and her family have lived in Northside Richmond for three years and have watched crime decrease by nearly thirty percent in the area, but this is not be enough for Marcella’s father, Armando Diaz.  He wants the Richmond Hispanic Liaison Office, a special police unit that specifically caters to the needs of the Hispanic population of Richmond, to help them better communicate their concerns.

“We need better communications help [from] the police department to communicate with [the rest of the public],” he said.  “We voted for the Liaison Officer.”

Julissa Booth is the officer who currently holds the pivotal position.  She is also Hispanic and wears her title with great pride.

“This is an effort to reach out to the Hispanic or Latino population and develop a more positive relationship with this community and to enhance the relationship between us in regards to their public safety concerns,” said Booth.

Booth does a number of things to foster this relationship and meet the needs of Hispanics in the city.  The job includes attending community meetings, workshops, and safety seminars, providing education on Virginia Laws, educating Hispanic business owners of the best business practices, providing written and verbal crime prevention information, and providing translation of Spanish for patrol officers and detectives.  Taruselli is optimistic about Booth and her position.

“Yeah, crime hasn’t necessarily decreased or anything, but I think it’s a really good sign that the police created this position.  It indicates to me at least that they are making an effort and that’s awesome and gives us all hope,” said Marcella.

Marcella plans on continuing her education at VCU and living in Richmond while she sets her goals for the future.  For more information on integrating the needs of the Richmond Hispanic population, visit http://www.ci.richmond.va.us/police/HispanicLiaisonOfficer.