Monday, May 9, 2011

[Noticias] Alto al Crimen May Update - Bribes, Burglary and Boat Horns

Farewell to Bob Wolfe and Pon

This week we bid a fond farewell to Bob Wolfe and Pon as Bob finally departs for Thailand. Thanks Bob, for all you have done to help Alto al Crimen become the success that it is - our whole community owes you a huge debt of gratitude. 

What to do if you are stopped and asked for a bribe

This last week, a couple visiting Boquete and touring with a real estate agent were stopped at one of the routine roadblocks at the Boquete/Portrerrilos junction. Turns out, the gentleman, who was driving, did not have his passport with him, a clear mistake - visitors must ALWAYS carry their passports or a copy including the cover page and the page with the visa stamp. They were then pulled over to the side of the road and held for 45 minutes while the officer demanded a $150 bribe and threatened them with impounding of their car and jail. Finally, just to end the impasse, the gentleman paid the bribe and they were released. The next day, on advice from another resident, they called the Boquete Hot Line to report the incident. The operator reported the call to us at Alto al Crimen and we contacted the victims. 

Since the visitors did not speak Spanish, an AAC member accompanied them to the police station in Boquete, where it was determined that the officer involved was from David. Immediately, and with the blessings of the officers in Boquete, they trouped off to David to identify the officer who had stopped them. When they arrived, all the officers in the garrison were lined up for identification. Not finding the culprit, they returned the next morning and identified the suspect from a photo - he was the only one "out sick" that day. His fate is yet to be determined. From this day forward, crooked cops will think twice about asking tourists for bribes.

The entire community of Boquete should thank these persistent visitors for teaching us all several very important lessons in dealing with the police:

1) All of the top officers in both the Policia National and the Trafficos are determined to stamp out the petty bribery that has characterized their profession in the past. 

2) NEVER pay money directly to a police officer. This was made very clear to us by the top officers themselves. If you are solicited for a bribe, get the name of the officer from his name badge and very important, the number of his vehicle, since vehicles are signed out to officers, while the name badge could be a fake. DO NOT pay bribes, no matter how small, since this just perpetuates the problem and makes you guilty of a crime as well. 

3) If you are solicited for a bribe (and only for this matter), immediately call:

Sargent Eric Nunez - Department of Internal Affairs (speaks excellent English)
730-5276 - office number, anyone there can help you
6959 -7171 - his personal cell

Announcing that you are making a call to Sgt. Nunez while you are stopped with the officer will impress him/her no end, although you can also call after the fact. If you don't have the number handy during your stop, tell the officer you are calling a translator and immediately call the Boquete Hot Line (which should be in your phone, right?) and tell the operator that you have been approached for a bribe. The operator will talk with the officer and make the followup call to Sgt. Nunez. And remember to get the ID number from the police car/motorcycle - very important.

Two daytime burglaries in Volcancito Arriba

There seems to be a minor trend in daylight burglaries these days. The bad guys stake out a house and when the owners leave (or even go outside) swoop in and steal their laptops - first and foremost. Over the last month, two have occurred in Volcancito Arriba, one above la Estancia and one at the very top of the road. In one case, the husband left for town and the house was burglarized in the ten minutes that the wife was out back picking berries. The other occured while the residents were in David, with the banditos breaking a window that had been left unlocked - in the very room where a contractor had been working a week before. In both cases, laptop computers were the prime target. After consultation with AAC, one of the residents has contracted with a private investigator to follow up - indeed, the cell phone that was stolen had been used the night of the crime to call a lady of the night in David - the investigation is ongoing. 

Why is it important to report and investigate EVERY crime? Even though your loss may have been minimal, the success of the burglar at your house may encourage them to rob one of your neighbors, who might lose a great deal more. Having an investigator canvas the neighborhood and talk with the local mothers is a very good way to send a strong message to the bad guys (kids mostly) that their actions are being watched and will not go unanswered. Further, only by having a report of EVERY crime can we as a community get a real grip on the level of crime that is ongoing. The police don't keep crime statistics, so it is up to us. 

Be very aware of who might be watching your house and from where. Video cameras (fake or real) are an excellent way to claim your territory and discourage the bad guys from just waltzing in. And when you leave the house HIDE YOUR LAPTOP - slide it into a kitchen drawer or some other easy hiding spot. If you are determined to leave it where it is, GET A SECURITY CABLE so they can't just walk off with it. 

Boat horns available once again

The personal security devices that we affectionatly call "boat horns" are once again available to the Boquete community. They will be stocked and available at Las Ruinas restaurant and from time to time at the Tuesday Market. The horns are provided in return for a minimum $15 donation to Alto al Crimen, in order to support the ongoing operation of the Hot Line. 

Hot Line update

Your Boquete Hot Line (6477-6662) continues to do excellent work for the community. Most recently, a visitor to Boquete discovered on her departure that she had lost an envelope which contained all of her travel documents, passport etc. Hoping just to get a number for the US Embassy, she called the hot line. The operator took her number and made a call to what are now his friends in the Boquete police department, where he learned that indeed, they had found an envelope but had no idea how to get in touch with its owner. Case closed and another travel disaster averted. 

In the weeks and months to come we will be upgrading and computerizing the Hot Line operation. We at Alto al Crimen want to thank all of you whose generous contributions have made the improvement of this valuable service possible. 

About Alto al Crimen

Fundacion Alto al Crimen is a non-profit Panamanian foundation formed by a group of concerned Boquete citizens to improve the security of all the residents of Boquete through education of homeowners, organization of neighborhoods, cooperation with the police and direct action to make Boquete unattractive to criminals. It is supported entirely by donations from citizens. The Foundation has no staff, no overhead and uses all of the money received to further the goals of reducing crime in Boquete. 


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