HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH: BILINGUAL ACPO VICTIM WITNESS ADVOCATE ASSISTS VICTIMS OF CRIMES WITH LANGUAGE BARRIERS


MAYS LANDING- Each year, the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office observes HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH and recognizes and honors the dedicated members of our staff and their Hispanic roots and history. This month, ACPO will share the stories of some of our staff members and their Hispanic ancestry. Meet bilingual ACPO Victim Witness Advocate Ineabel Alameda.

“It is imperative that the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office is staffed with bilingual Victim Witness Advocates in order to provide services to victims of crimes who may possess a language barrier. The ACPO Office of Victim Witness Advocacy’s ability to communicate with Spanish speaking victims is a necessary resource in overcoming language barriers in seeking justice for victims of crime in Atlantic County,” said Acting Atlantic County Prosecutor Cary Shill.

Victim Witness Advocate Ineabel (Bella) Alameda was born in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, the daughter of a Puerto Rican US Army Sergeant First Class Juan D. Alameda and Rinerda Figueroa. After birth, Bella moved and lived in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico. Bella has been a lifelong fluent bilingual of Spanish and English.

“My parents made it a point to speak and teach us both Spanish and English from a very early age. My father, who was in the military—and is now retired— wanted us to celebrate our Hispanic culture, but also fully assimilate into American Culture,” Bella said.

Bella graduated from the Atlantic Cape Community College with an A.S in General Studies and A.A.S in Paralegal studies. She graduated from Thomas Edison State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology. Bella is currently completing a Master of Arts degree in Child Advocacy and Policy at Montclair State University.

“Bi-lingual (Spanish speaking) Advocates Bella Alameda and Maria Sosa are currently assigned to the Victim Witness Unit. They each proudly and professionally serve all victims of crimes in Atlantic County on a daily basis. Bella has been with the office since May 2019 and continues to bring much needed positivity and compassion to the office regularly. It is extremely important to have two well versed bilingual, frontline, victim advocates to assist victims that only speak Spanish because it ensures that those victims have a voice and that their rights as a victim are being protected. Bella’s history of community service and engagement make her qualified to work with Atlantic County’s Spanish speaking community during their times of need,” said ACPO Victim Witness Coordinator Raymond Royster.

Bella said she came to the ACPO to bring hope, comfort, peace and justice to the victims of crimes in Atlantic County. She said the service of social work has roots in her family, as both her mother and sister have long and distinguished careers, serving as social workers in Puerto Rico.

“I see cultural and language barriers as a hurdle to overcome in the justice system. Unfortunately, in many Hispanic communities, crimes go unreported or even excused because of language barriers or cultural norms. I want any victim of a crime to receive justice and benefits they desperately need to recover from a crime against them. Victims are put at ease and can relate to someone who fluently speaks their language and can relate to them,” Bella said.

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Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15. It was enacted into law on August 17, 1988, on the approval of Public Law 100-402.

The day of September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September18, respectively. Also, Columbus Day or Día de la Raza, which is October 12, falls within this 30 day period.

~Information from www.hispanicheritagemonth.gov

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