Sunday, February 8, 2009

Citizen Patrols

In Santa Lucia Cotzumalguapa, at least 300 residents organized to provide safety patrols and operational support to the National Civil Police (PNC) and the army to counter kidnapping, extortion and other types of crime.

In all there are 31 groups or boards operating together, making up the Municipal Security Council (Comus). Óscar Osorio Contreras, president of that organization, said that representatives of each community are kept in constant communication by telephone to ascertain the situation in different neighborhoods. If criminal activities are detected in any sector, managers of Comus request assistance from the PNC and the Army.

The groups have the use of a car that was donated to the municipality to support the groups.

Óscar Osorio said that since they have organized the levels of violence have decreased, residents also show confidence in the authorities, and complaints are made directly to the leaders of each community.

Leonel Garcia Velazquez, chief of Escuintla, said that safety meetings are organized throughout the department and the police are working with them at the request of the people or elected leaders. By the end of 2009 there might be as many as 50 boards.

Before safety meetings started to be held, residents did not report crime because the police were suspected to be accomplices of the criminals or that the police themselves were at fault. One resident, Raymundo Peralta, said that one of his relatives was beaten and robbed of their belongings by the police. Óscar Osorio said that, recently, members of the PNC of Santa Lucia Cotzumalguapa were involved in anomalous events but the local police have made changes.

The chairman of the Municipal Security Committee, explained that the municipality of Santa Lucia Cotzumalguapa is committed to supporting the Comus, to control crime, and to ferret out organized gangs of criminals in that region.