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46% of Ticos Lack Faith in the Police
Opinions in Nosara and Samara are Mixed

By Wilberth Villalobos Castrillo
Photos by Giordano Ciampini

The absolute trust that the majority of Costa Ricans once had in the officers of the Public Force has been diminishing through the years, giving way to an increase in the perception of greater insecurity in the country, according to reports from the United Nations Development Program (PNUD).

The Public Force is aware of this change in perception and now dedicates part of its training to teaching "humanities," in which officers learn about good manners, discipline, courtesy, respect and other ethical values.

Survey results from the report "Citizen (In)security in Costa Rica: balance of the situation" show that 56% of Costa Ricans disagree that the police achieve efficient identification and detention of delinquents; additionally 46% don't believe in the honesty of the officials and 45% don't notice their presence.

For its part, the document "Citizen Insecurity and drugs: Realities and Perceptions" reveals that 78% of people consider Costa Rica an unsafe country. Regarding the possibility of solving the problem, a high level of lack of hope is noted, as the report highlights that two of every three people interviewed mentioned being able to do little or nothing.

Those who live in Samara and Nosara have conflicting opinions regarding the confidence generated by the police. Nevertheless many think that the presence of officials near businesses generates confidence in people, especially shoppers and tourists. In addition, many worry about problems such as inefficiency in identifying and detaining suspects, lack of transportation to attend an emergency and an insufficient number of officials for the area (see "Do you feel confidence with the police presence?" page 8).

Why Less Trust
Psychologist Eduardo Alvarez Garro explained to VON that among the factors that people look for when deciding who to trust are "empathy such as interest the other person shows toward my needs, as well as ability to maintain a dialogue between both parties listening and interchanging opinions freely without feeling criticized or attacked, and conduct or actions that support my needs."

Alvarez believes that among Costa Ricans some social stigmas exist toward the police. "Many see the job of the police as being for people that don't have another employment option, that the salaries are low and therefore those who aspire to be police are people of limited resources or little education," he indicated.

Alvarez explained "that the population perceives the police as an authority and protection figure but this initial trust is affected or diminished by actions such as when a criminal is not arrested or is set free quickly. Although we recognize them as an authority, in some cases we perceive them as powerless or inefficient," he highlighted.

Tourist police walk along Guiones beach.

More and Better Trained Police
Adding to this situation is the fact that some police officials still have difficulty filling out written reports with bad spelling and low scholarship.

The Public Force recognizes that they are aware of these factors and the resulting problems; however they assure that they are eradicating these deficiencies by giving better training to the police.

Erick Lacayo, director of the National Police School, explained that currently they are providing better training to a larger quantity of police through the Basic Police Course.

"Currently the course has a duration of more than 2000 hours during one year and is divided in three areas, which are practical police theory, legal and humanities," he explained.

In the case of police who joined the Public Force before 1994, the school trains them in the High Basic Course, which is similar to the Basic Police Course and has the objective of training and updating officials who have more than one year of service.

Nonetheless he recognized the limitations of some police when they have to communicate in another language, like English, the language most used to communicate with tourists, since the language is not currently taught to the officers. Regarding the physical condition of the officers, he pointed out that during the course it is imperative that they be in shape but afterward it is the responsibility of each official.

Lacayo indicated that currently the National Police School trains an average of 1000 police cadets, who earn a monthly salary of 350,000 colones ($700), and once they finish the course get an additional economic incentive.

For his part, Rafael Angel Araya, regional director of the Public Force in Guanacaste, highlighted the good results of preventive programs like Community Security and Pinta Seguro (Safe Look), which is imparted in education centers nationally and helps children to trust the police and see them as friends, "so they don't feel scared to talk to or approach us," he indicated.

In addition Lacayo showed optimism with the training that new officers receive. "We hope to recover the confidence and the main space that we have lost in society," he concluded.

Do you feel confidence with the police presence?

"It gives me a lot of security because if someone strange is there or tries to do something to the business, the tourist police appear and they leave. I've never felt confidence in the other police (public force), from what I've seen and the time I've lived here. If you arrive in Nosara they're always in the same place. It's like they're asleep and sometimes things happen 20 meters from them and they don't even act, so for me it's not that secure."
Yadira Porras Torres
Guiones, Playa Pelada

"Confidence, yes. It's a reason for security. They
don't get around much because they don't have transportation. The vehicle they have is very bad."
Odir Jimenez Jimenez
Matapalo of Samara

"I feel like they don't do anything to be honest.
They're very present but they don't do anything."
Joanna Moore
Samara Center

"Minimum because they hardly do anything. When there's a problem, you always have to go to Nicoya. I think the laws should be changed, because if there's a problem here and later you have to go to OIJ to say what the problem was and they give you a report so you return here. Many people don't have means of transportation to go to Nicoya and then they can't do anything and nothing is resolved."
William Lancaster
Marlin Bill's, Guiones

Really I feel there isn't much police presence. In Nosara I believe that the police that are there are insufficient for the quantity of people. My neighborhood is peaceful, but I know other neighborhoods where there's more insecurity. I don't know if the problems would be fixed with more police.I believe that as well as police there should be a change in society. The police don't have many tools to take charge of all of Nosara."
Virginia Depauli Font
Nosara, Los Arenales


More Regional News

Fined Foreigners Face Re-entry Ban

According to the new Ley de Transito (traffic law), foreigners who do not pay a traffic ticket before leaving Costa Rica will be denied re-entry into the country on their next visit – whether by land or air.

Legislators Approve Moratorium on Evictions in Coastal Communities
“Decision of the President is Only a Postponement of the Evictions, Not a Solution” Gerardo Chaves Cordero (CIMACO)

The Legislative Assembly has approved in both the first and second debates a law that establishes a 24-month moratorium to halt evictions of inhabitants of special zones, including the maritime land zone.

Samara Discusses Disaster Preparedness

Although, the red alert was lowered to yellow and shelters were shut down, many remain nervous with so many aftershocks – over 1700 by Tuesday 11- and the possibility of another big quake.

Psychologists Visit Nosara and Samara to Calm People’s Nerves

On Monday, September 10, a group of 10 psychologists from the University of Costa Rica (UCR) and the College of Psychologists arrived in the communities of Samara and Nosara to meet with the populace and school teachers with the goal of giving them post-earthquake therapy.

This Was the Anticipated Earthquake for Nicoya, but Seismic Potential Remains

The September 5, 2012 earthquake in Cangrejal of Samara had a magnitude and location in the place foreseen by the scientific work published by OVSICORI during the last fifteen years. 

Effect on Tourism in the Coast Should Be Minimal

Optimism abounds as people in Samara and Nosara have assessed damages caused by the 7.6 magnitude earthquake on Wednesday, September 5th with the epicenter in Cangrejal of Samara. Some have commented that it was fortunate that the earthquake happened during the day since injuries and structural damages were minimal.

Was This the Big One?

Three days after the 7.6 magnitude earthquake shook the country, a lot of information has been received  and processed by the Costa Rican Sismology and Volcanology Observatory (OVSICORI); nonetheless conclusions are few and progressive. 

Nicoya Requests Collaboration of Civil Engineers to Facilitate Home Inspections
240 Homes Affected

The Municipality of Nicoya requested the voluntary help of associated civil engineers to evaluate the damages suffered by houses and buildings alter the earthquake on Wednesday morning. 

Bridges over Rio Montaña and Nosara Not Seriously Damaged
RAASA Will Begin Work on Route 160 on Saturday, the 8th

After the 7.6 magnitude earthquake on September 5th, the National Roadway Council (CONAVI) assured that the bridges over Río Montaña and Nosara River not only withstood the strong shaking of the quake and aftershocks, but additionally the structures don’t show severe damages.

Not Everyone Can Return to Daily Life After Earthquake

Although aftershocks continue to be felt constantly—now numbering more than 1,000—people are returning to their normal lives. For many, this is easy to do since their homes and businesses didn’t sustain damage or the damage was minimum after the earthquake on Wednesday, September 5th.

Video of 7.6 Earthquake in Nosara

Samara Remains Under Red Alert After Earthquake
Medical Services Are Limited

Still under red alert, 236 men, women and children are sleeping and eating in three designated shelters in the district of Samara, the epicenter of the 7.6 magnitude earthquake that shook and shocked many on Wednesday morning, September 5th. 

President Chinchilla Came to Nicoya to Evaluate Situation
-Vice-Minister of Housing inspected damage in Nosara

Thursday morning, September 6th, President of the Republic Laura Chinchilla toured various parts of the canton in order to evaluate the situation 24 hours alter the earthquake with epicenter in Samara Beach

Engineers Survey Nosara Damage

Two engineers from the Architects and Engineer Federal College were present in Nosara this Thursday, September 6th, observing homes and surveying the damage resulting from the 7.6 magnitude earthquake, which struck in the morning hours of September 5th, 2012.

7.6 Earthquake in Cangrejal of Samara
Information from the National Seismological Network (UCR)

8 km to the northeast of Samara
15 kilometers deep
7.6 intensity on the Richter scale
Felt as far away as Nicaragua

7.6 Earthquake in Cangrejal of Samara
7.6 Magnitude Earthquake Damages Several Structures in Nicoya

This Wednesday, September 5th a powerful, magnitude-7.6 earthquake struck approximately 8 kilometers northeast from the town of Samara, generating a strong quake whose force was felt throughout the country, but mostly on the Nicoya Peninsula.

7.6 Earthquake in Cangrejal of Samara
Municipality of Nicoya and National Emergency Commission Assessing Damages in Nosara

At around 2 p.m. a meeting was held with representatives of the Municipality of Nicoya, who arrived in Nosara to evaluate structural damages in the town in order to report to the National Emergency Commission (CNE). 

Nosara Center Asphalt Project Still in the Works

The project to pave two kilometers in the center of Nosara is being held up due to a funding issue in the municipality, so it might be a couple more months before the project can be completed. 

Municipality Looks to Recover Green Zones and Public Areas

The municipality is trying to sort out registries of lands in Garza, Nosara and Samara that are improperly registered. The lands include green zones, public property and streets in Samara and Nosara, as well as concessionable lands in the maritime zone of Garza.

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