A year later, Cayce Police grow effort targeted at reaching Hispanic community

Posted 9/27/23

The impact and influence of a local effort to bridge divides between Hispanic residents and law enforcement continues to grow.

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A year later, Cayce Police grow effort targeted at reaching Hispanic community


The impact and influence of a local effort to bridge divides between Hispanic residents and law enforcement continues to grow.

The initiative, called Si Se Puede (a Spanish phrase frequently used in the spirit of “Yes, we can!” by political and activist groups) was sparked by the Cayce Police Department and launched in earnest last fall, with agencies such as the Lexington and Richland county sheriff’s departments joining the push. 

“We started with a group of three, and now we’re a group of 55,” Juana Saavedra, victim advocacy/community outreach coordinator for the Cayce Police and a Mexican immigrant, told the Chronicle.

She talked about the program's growth in Granby Gardens Park, across the street from the Cayce Police Department, with festive music playing and the smell of freshly grilled food filling the air. The department held its second-annual Fiesta, a family-friendly festival aimed at engaging the Hispanic community, on Sept. 24.

Si Se Puede was on hand, connecting attendees with the various resources the program offers, as were other community-focused organizations such as Cooperative Health and the Brookland-Lakeview Empowerment Center. The Cayce Police had a booth handing out toys to kids.

Saavedra explained that efforts such as Si Se Puede and the Fiesta, which strive to show how law enforcement is trying to connect with the Hispanic community are vital.

“It's important for us to be able to continue to make that connection or not only the Hispanic community to continue to grow that trust but for the entire community to know that we are here that we continue to be here and that we are able to continue to grow the resources that we have,” she said, explaining that this stretches beyond feel-good events.

She emphasized how Si Se Puede and the Fiesta have helped with recruitment, connecting them with potential Hispanic officers, allowing them to further build trust by representing the Hispanic community among the Cayce Police force. She also said that 10 officers are currently learning to speak Spanish as another bridge to the Hispanic community.

Cayce Police Chief Chris Cowen said that building trust goes hand in hand with providing an expanding range of resources through Si Se Puede, which recently unveiled new branding during an event with representatives from various local law enforcement agencies.

When the program launched last year, it put a big emphasis on the app SayHi. That free speak-to-talk program allows for quick translation in more than 50 languages and makes it possible for officers to push past communication barriers.

A year later, though, Si Se Puede is pushing a lot more than an app.

“We've added 15 additional resources,” Cowen said. “The idea is to add as many resources as we possibly can to the community to have access, bringing it into the communities. And so the issue becomes, for a lot of the Hispanic community, is them being able to access the resources and them to trust those resources.”

He spotlighted medical services, including diabetic screenings, and banking services to help people be more financially sufficient as being particularly impactful additions to Si Se Puede’s resources.

“These are preventative methods. It's a holistic approach,” he said. “If people are carrying large amounts of cash because they don't trust banks, they're susceptible to robbery. If they're not investing their money, they're not able to pay their bills, then they're susceptible to losing their homes, losing their cars, and making sure that their bills are paid. So we're preventing crime because we're trying to improve quality of life.”

cayce police, si se puede, hispanic community, columbia law enforcement, lexington county community outreach


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