Police chief asks Latinos for help, sees better days ahead
JANESVILLE Police Chief Dave Moore dropped by at a back-to-school picnic for Latino students and their families Sunday at Palmer Park.
Moore told the group he wants Latinos to feel they are being treated fairly by his officers, and he wants the Spanish-speakers' help in making Janesville a good place to live.
"We at the police department are always concerned that everybody gets treated fairly and that we have a safe community," Moore said.
Moore said he believes Janesville is poised for good things when the economy turns around, but only if the city is seen as a safe place.
If not, businesses will go someplace else, he said.
Moore urged the picnickers to communicate with police to help keep Janesville safe.
Marcella Govantes, who has lived here with her husband, Carlos, and two children for 12 years, said her family came to Janesville because it is a welcoming community.
"It's a calm place to live, and not a lot of gangs," Govantes said.
The couple lead a parent group—much like a PTA—for families whose children are in the Janesville School District's program for students whose native tongue isn't English.
This is the fourth year for the picnic, which doesn't use any school district funding.
Jose Carrillo, a retired General Motors worker who works as an advocate for Spanish speakers in the district, said the picnic has many goals, including providing a way for Latinos to get to know each other.
Some families whose children attend one school may not know families at another school, Carrillo said.
The picnic gives school officials a chance to get information to the families in a welcoming environment, and it gives families a chance to ask questions, Carrillo said.
"A lot of parents don't know how to navigate the system," Carrillo said.
The result should be a smoother relationship, Carrillo said.
Carrillo also invites graduates of Craig and Parker high schools who are studying in college or otherwise act as positive role models, to encourage the younger students to stay in school.
Sunday's event included a presentation from a Milwaukee-based group, Voces de la Frontera, about the new federal program that protects illegal immigrants from deportation if they were brought here as children and were successful in school or served in the military.
It's a topic of interest to local Latinos, Carrillo said.
Local schools continue to see an influx of Spanish-speaking students.
The 1,092 Hispanic students who attended district schools last year represented 11 percent of the district's enrollment. That's up from 4 percent nine years earlier.
Hispanic students are the biggest minority group in the district, followed by black and those of two or more races, at 5 percent each.
School starts Sept. 4.