Cooperation and mutual trust should be the building blocks for crime prevention, according to Chapala authorities who hosted a public meeting Friday, May 4 aimed principally at calming the frazzled nerves of the community’s foreign residents.
Interim Mayor Oscar España, Public Security Chief Adán Domínguez and other officials in attendance expressed some disappointment at the scant attendance of around 40 expats and a half-dozen Mexican inhabitants.
Nonetheless, España opened the gathering with a cordial welcome in English stating, “Thank you for choosing to live in Mexico. Foreigners have the same rights under our Constitution. We have to build a bridge of communication between the government and the citizens … and work together.”
Dominguez took charge of the rest of the meeting, with bilingual officer Rafael Suarez handling translations to English.
Pointing out that officers currently serving on the police force are quite different from those of previous times, he explained that 76 of the 104 men and women now in the corps have passed obligatory trust control exams, and the other 28 are still in process of the stringent evaluations. Instead of sporadic police training courses offered in the past, officers now follow the curriculum of a professional police academy. He noted that 40 Chapala officers have completed the basic training level and 30 more are enrolled for this year.
The police chief’s hiring policy centers on recruitment of younger, better educated officers with a fresh outlook on police work, rather than those coming from a prior post where they may have acquired less than ideal habits.
In asking for citizen participation as extra eyes and ears to strengthen vigilance, Domínguez said, “I understand that some of you have been victims of crime. I’ve been told that many don’t report to the police department due to a lack of confidence.” Referring to the detention of 19 burglars caught in the act, he stressed that 80 percent of them were caught thanks to prompt reports from citizens. “Help us do our job right,” he pleaded.
Domínguez mentioned that the police department keeps profiles on suspects picked up by police that can be useful in the investigation, prosecution and conviction of repeat offenders.
The police chief indicated that most criminals who prey on the community come from the Guadalajara metro area or neighboring lakeshore towns. Still, he suggested that residents should ask for references and official identifications from the local workers they hire, and offered to run criminal background checks upon request.
“How is it that you put more trust in someone you don’t know and let them into your homes, but don’t have trust in trained and uniformed police officers?” he asked incredulously.
Addressing public perception that Riberas del Pilar has been hit by a wave of home break-ins, Domiguez said that only ten incidents have been reported to the police so far this year. Speaking about the complications of keeping watch on a municipality of Chapala’s dimensions with limited resources, he said that two patrol trucks and two motorcycles are assigned to cover the Riberas area.
With ten million pesos in federal funding earmarked for public security this year, he will soon be able to add six new patrol trucks and eight motorcycles to the fleet and increase manpower.
At present, police response time to urgent calls averages three to five minutes. He reminded the audience that English-speaking officers man the emergency cell phone line at 33-1360-8600.