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Nicoya OIJ Chief: “We Should Be More Cautious; People Believe We Are Living in the 50s”

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At 48 years of age and after five years of walking the halls of the Judicial Investigation Organization (OIJ- Organismo de Investigacion Judicial), Juan Cruz Lopez, who has a law degree, took on the role of head of the Nicoya delegation at the end of April.

Cruz, who previously worked in the delegations of San Carlos, Los Chiles, La Fortuna and Santa Cruz, spoke with The Voice of Guanacaste and promised to provide better service to the public. According to the chief, he increased office hours by one hour in order to stay available longer to assist people and process the most records possible.

How do you plan to streamline work in the OIJ Nicoya office?
Two officers will be in charge of collecting evidence and documenting proof. Then the “tamizador” (screener in charge of preparing the records) that we have in the office takes charge of contacting the corresponding people and institutions to make up the file. When the file reaches my hands for review, in most cases, it already contains the necessary elements (all of the elements of evidence have been attached), and we proceed to deliver it to the district attorney’s office in less than eight hours. The idea is for the district attorney to have enough time to request preventive measures for the accused.

What have been the results of the changes implemented?
During this same period last year (from January to May 2014), 1200 complaints were received. This year, we have decreased to 926 complaints, and the idea is to continue reducing these numbers by means of preventive and informative work. For example, we have identified people who have an arrest warrant and we have proceeded with their apprehension. This reduces crime and therefore the number of complaints.

What do you know about the presence of gangs that operate tracking the movements of condominium guests on the coast? Are you guys doing some follow-up?

Yes, correct, we have already identified some suspects but we are following up. Apparently, they monitor when foreigners go out to places like the beach, to dine in hotels, or just to walk somewhere, in order to break in and steal. They are people who speak English, so they can interpret the plans of tourists and thus follow their steps. In this sense, we have asked the chambers of tourism and commerce to help us in this, at least to insist that hotels and condominiums or places where tourists stay have security cameras.

According to the data that you manage, anti-drug bust operations with marked bills have decreased in recent months in Nicoya. What are the reasons?
The reason is that we have succeeded in reducing the crime rate. The mechanism of marked bills is used if and when there is an exchange of money for drugs, but the operations will always be present whenever necessary.

How effective is the method of preventive prison when prisons are jammed?
Preventive prison is for those people who represent a high danger and give evidence of risk of manipulating witnesses and the possibility of fleeing the country and it only includes felonies. The judge dictates preventive prison based on the evidence presented by the district attorney’s office and can last from three months to a year.

Some people do not file a complaint because they believe that you guys have a minimum amount to handle a particular crime. Is that true?
For us, no amount exists. Five colones is enough for us to do an investigation, if and when there is a crime.

How can citizens help to reduce the number of crimes?
We should be more cautious. People believe we are living in the 50s. Don’t leave motorcycles or bicycles outside where criminals easily pass by, put them in the car and take them. Don’t leave keys or belongings in the car. This encourages criminals to commit theft, robbery and other, more violent crimes, and people can no longer go for a walk at certain hours of the night, much less go into dark areas, because they rape or assault them… nor leave the house open… If citizens take these precautions, that would help OIJ a lot.

What we ask is for people to cooperate. Many crimes go unpunished because witnesses do not want to testify, but now there is the Victim and Witness Protection Unit. If we have to change someone’s residence to protect them, we are going to do it. Another point is the crime of receiving, which consists of when the criminal steals and the neighbors buy what is stolen. If people would not buy stolen goods, the criminals would not have anyone to sell to, and crime would be reduced by 20%. We should eliminate these kinds of practices, even though things cost us a little more.

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