Folks in and around Summit County might be taking a second glance or two at Akron METRO Bus ads and billboards over the next few weeks.
Don't worry -- no need to rub the eyes and shake the head. Three of the languages are not in English, thanks to a campaign launched March 22 by the Summit County Prosecutor's Office.
The "We Can Help " campaign was created to assist victims of crime, specifically targeting underserved populations, which may not all speak fluent English, throughout Summit County.
The ads, on both the inside and outside of the buses and on billboards, show contact information for several Summit County Agencies, including the Rape Crisis Center, the Battered Women's Shelter, the Victim Assistance Program and the Summit County Prosecutor's Office. The Summit County Prosecutor's Office website will also provide links to local agencies, as well as a summary of victim rights.
The idea for the multi-cultural campaign began last year, according to Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh.
"In the past year, the Summit County Prosecutor's Office has assisted 13 people who have either had limited English proficiency or could not speak English," Walsh said.
The languages for the campaign — English, Spanish, Arabic, and Nepali — were determined after consulting with the International Institute of Akron and Asia, Inc. The institute also assisted in the translations.
"Each year, my office applies for funding from the Victim of Crime Act Grant, which assists in offsetting some of the costs associated with our Victim Services Division," Walsh said. "The application for those grants is due in June. After discussions with several members of the Prosecutor's Office, we decided to focus on a public awareness campaign targeting underserved populations of Akron and Summit County."
Walsh felt a good time to begin the campaign was around the first week of April, which is National Crime Victims Awareness Week, she said. April is also Sexual Assault Awareness Month, she added.
The innovative program was paid for mostly by grants, according to Walsh.
The cost of the campaign included $13,681. Of that, $10,944 was paid for with the Victim of Crime Act grant with $2,736 in matching funds from Walsh's office. The campaign also includes $4,050 in billboard advertising. Of that, $3,240 was paid for by the Victim of Crime Act and $810 was paid with matching funds from the prosecutor's office.
Walsh's office decided the best method to reach people would be through METRO Bus ads and local billboards, she said.
"Our area has recently seen an influx of immigrants, many who may not know or understand our laws. Coming to a new country, where you may not speak the language or fully know the local customs, can be overwhelming," according to the prosecutor. "We felt having a campaign in different languages would make it easier to reach those new to our area and potentially put them at ease."
Walsh explained how being a crime victim can be overwhelming, but the victims are not alone.
"My office does all it can to assist crime victims, helping them through their case from beginning to end," she said. "That also means connecting people with other local agencies who have the knowledge, training, and ability to help. That is why we included the Summit County Victim Assistance Program, the Rape Crisis Center of Medina and Summit Counties, and the Battered Women's Shelter of Summit and Medina Counties in the awareness campaign."