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US Consul visit in Nosara
Consul General to crowd: Fight crime together
By Becca Williams

Paul Birdsall, Consul General of the U.S. Embassy
 

The crowd couldn’t wait to vent. Before Paul Birdsall, Consul General of the U.S. Embassy to Costa Rica, could get out his thoughts on deterring crime, the crowd erupted with a litany of frustrations about the thefts and burglaries taking place in this coastal tourist town.

Birdsall, based at the U.S. embassy in San Jose, came to the Nosara-Guiones area on Saturday, July 17th, as part of an inquiry into towns that have created what he calls ‘civic action groups’ that are fighting crime in their respective areas. Nosara, with a determined group of anti-crime activists called the Asocation de Seguridad Comunitaria de Nosara, is the fourth place he’s met residents and was invited by a local expat. About 80 people – mainly American seasonal residents, expats, and some Ticos packed into the dining room of Marlin Bill’s restaurant to hear him.

Recently, Birdsall has met with groups in San Ramón in the Central Valley and the Central Pacific coastal tourist towns, Quepos and Dominical that are also grappling with crime waves. Birdsall cited statistics from a group of Costa Rican attorneys and based on court and police records that reflect a steady increase in crime in the country over the last 12 years.

Jarred by home invasions and robberies, many attendees at the meeting were anxious to know what kind of funding they could get from the U.S. Embassy to support crime fighting here. But the Consul General dissuaded those expectations focusing instead on the success of building community-based support.

“Working with the police is definitely your top option along with getting communications going with your Tico neighbors,” he advised. “For a lot of us, language can be a real issue but you really need to communicate with the neighbors. Treat them right and get along with them because if there’s a problem at your house your first line of response is going to be your neighbors.”

Diana Solano, a Tica and Nosara resident, pitched in with her own invitation for the entire community to work together. She reminded the audience that Costa Ricans are also frequent victims of these crimes and are keen to help create a secure environment. “I’m a Tico, not a thief, so you can talk with me.”

Solano’s comments launched discussion on creating better community outreach in order to assure that local Ticos are invited to security discussions. Among the six Ticos present, there were offers to post Spanish language flyers and notify by word of mouth in Nosara when meetings are scheduled.

What other towns are doing
Birdsall described what he considers effective “community-based initiatives” in two of the towns he’s visited. In Dominical, a community group has created the website, caponcrime.info that includes a discussion forum, an on-line form for reporting crimes and 11 key goals that include a ‘No Serve’ policy for local business owners that refuses service to ‘known’ criminals. In Quepos, a group that formed as a not-for-profit was able to get U.S. financial assistance for funding security equipment.

While Birdsall downplayed availability in the future for this kind of funding, when pressed, he suggested contacting the Embassy’s public affairs office to “see what kind of things they have.” But he emphasized again that, “A lot of these efforts really need to come out of the community specifically rather than wait to come down from us.”

He sympathized with the culture shock of U.S. citizens working within another country’s legal framework that is so unlike their own, “We are accustom in the U.S. to English common law and in Costa Rica it’s more of a Roman law kind of system,” speaking to the exasperation of many who feel that the Costa Rican courts are too lenient with criminals. “To U.S. citizens,” he said, “it seems very different.”

Help from President Chinchilla?
As crime was a great concern in the last presidential election in this country the Consul General believes it looms large on the Chinchilla administration’s radar. In light of this, he says some traction might be gained by working with the administration’s Council on Competitiveness, whose goal is becoming competitive for investment for offshore activities, for retirement, and for tourism. “Businessmen, community groups, and individual citizens could address their concerns to this council,” he says, “and raise the alert that the danger [crime] is there.” He suggested that he might be of help in making these connections.

Nonetheless, his central focus is community-based initiatives and sharing what might be called best practices. “I would love to have an opportunity to get the representatives of the various groups together to discuss the issues they’re working on and ways they can help each other,” he said. “My office and my embassy will remain focused and I hope we can get a pretty good idea of who’s out there already and an opportunity to bring them all together.”

 

SEE RELATED STORY AND INFOGRAPHIC –
Interview with Grecy Castrillo Hernandez – Nicoya’s OIJ Operations Coordinator
“Crime in Nosara is not violent” More >

 

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Municipalidad Removes President of Nosara’s
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Interview with Juan José “Adonai” López Castillo, Former President of the Education Board of the Escuela Serapio López
“I have all the Bills and Receipts for what was Purchased”

Is it true that Orlando Villarreal donated one million colones to the Education Board?
Yes. First, he wrote a check payable to the Board of Nosara but, as you know, there is no Board of Nosara, only a Board of Education. Since we were unable to cash the check my fellow Board member, Eraida Matarrita (Vocal 1), and I went looking for Orlando in order to explain that the check could not be cashed. More >

Interview with Zulay Salas Valenciano, Nicoya’s Regional Director for the MEP

Did you advise that Juan José López Castillo be dismissed?
There was an investigation done by the Supervising Adviser, Damaris Díaz Hernández, and its results indicated that a replacement should be requested by the Municipalidad, which is the entity that appoints the Juntas de Educación (Education Boards) members, so the file was sent and they made the resolution. More >

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Interview with Grecy Castrillo Hernandez – Nicoya’s OIJ Operations Coordinator
“Crime in Nosara is not violent”

Has there been a rise in crime rates in Nosara?
Yes, whenever there is a growth in tourism, there is also a growth in delinquency.

According to Jason Vargas, Chief of Nosara’s Tourist Police, during the past nine months crime rates have not increased. Do you agree?
Yes, and not only did it not increase but it even decreased, not drastically, but we are aware that it has decreased.
More >

 

 

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