Police learning Portuguese
A GROWING concern about the influx of Portuguese people in a local community has led to police officers returning to school.Almost a dozen officers from Thetford swapped their helmets for exercise books on Thursday after they enrolled in language courses in a bid to ease any worries in the town.
A GROWING concern about the influx of Portuguese people in a local community has led to police officers returning to school.
Almost a dozen officers from Thetford swapped their helmets for exercise books on Thursday after they enrolled in language courses in a bid to ease any worries in the town.
Insp Tim Peacock said: "There is a concern among police officers about resentment felt in the town but it is a general feeling you have with any minority group.
"By and large I don't think we have had too many problems but there will always be some elements of a community that have reservations but we are doing everything we can to stop these problems."
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Mr Peacock estimated there was about 1,000 Portuguese people living in Thetford after local employers found it difficult to attract workers in the local area and turned their attentions to abroad.
He said: "There is no end of employment in the area and local employers were struggling to fill the vacancies. The Portuguese have contributed greatly to the local economy and by and large their English language is good.
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"We do have an official translator but this scheme, even if officers learn just a few words, will help us break down some barriers caused by any language difficulties."
The lessons came about by a chance meeting between Mr Peacock and Jose Pereira, of the Lusitania School of English in Castle Street.
Mr Pereira said: "We originally started the school to teach English, but we found there was a lot of English people interested in learning Portuguese.
"We started to talk to the police because we could see that the language could be very important to them.
"This first course is in basic Portuguese so they can understand what people say and know how to say a few things themselves.
"If they need to know where a person lives, ask their name or other information this could be really important."
Mr Peacock added: "The first lesson was quite popular with both officers and civilian signing up in the initial stages.
"I was very pleased with how it went and for them to do it in their own time, and completely voluntarily, shows their commitment to the town of Thetford.
"We are very grateful to the language school for providing it free of charge."
Mr Pereira has also helped with the relaunch of the Crimestoppers scheme in Thetford on Tuesday by translating some of the documents while a welcome to England leaflet, in both English and Portuguese, is also planned.
Mr Peacock said: "Thetford is now a very multi-cultural town and it is very important the Portuguese people are not seen as a detriment to our society.
"They have had a very positive influence on the community and we want to do anything we can to make them feel welcome."