Contributed by: Don WinnerBy Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com - You have probably heard by now there was another (second) violent assault and robbery at the Ranchos Los Toros restaurant in San Carlos. In response, the community organized another meeting to address issues of crime and violence, and the need for a response by the Panamanian government. I received the following this morning via email from someone who attended the meeting;
"I attending a meeting at the Ranchos las Toros restaurant held to address the rising crime in the greater Coronado community. It was stressed that this group wants to support the local police and work to supplement their resources by placing pressure on government officials. With the turn out tonight, I believe it definitely has the ear of the government.
If I understood correctly, attendees included the Director of the Ministry of Tourism, Commissioner of Tourist Police, Assistant District Attorney from the Attorney Generalís Office, The Mayor of San Carlos, multiple high level police and legal personnel.
Other speakers included Roberto Chocolate of www.retirementdetective.com, a representative from the Gorgona Vigilantes Group, Mark from the Boquette crime stoppers group, and a detective from that group that has been investigating the recent Ranchos las Toros robbery. The event was covered by the press including a TV camera crew.
They pointed out that the Ministry of Tourism spent $50M to promote the safety of Panama; they do not want to jeopardize that investment.
The group is developing a database of crimes to present to officials accurate figures of the crime in the area. Reporting a crime was covered and emphasized that if it isnít reported, it makes the area crime appear less than it is and cannot be solved. Anyone that has been the victim of a crime is encouraged to contact Roberto Chocolate to add to the statistics collected.
Proof that the government is taking this seriously was the announcement of two new Designated Prosecutors that will be in San Carlos and Chame to expedite search warrants and local investigations. Many of the police are now learning English. Three more police cars, totaling six, and some of the new police academy graduates will be assigned to San Carlos. It was pointed out that San Carlos isnít a sleepy fishing village anymore; itís another Coronado, surrounded by many expensive resorts and gated developments.
Another project the group hopes of achieve is a dispatch service using a database of local citizens. If you need help, you call the dispatcher and say you are number XXX and need the police/ambulance/fire department. The dispatcher notifies the proper authorities giving them directions to your house so you arenít struggling to explain in Spanish. This service was started in Boquettte and with other efforts of that group, they reported the crime rate decreased 90%.
The group also has a Reward and Investigation Fund (RIF) that assists police in solving crimes leading to the prosecution of those criminals. A wanted poster with a reward still is an effective tool in fighting crime. They can also file civil lawsuits against the criminals which give them access to all of the reports and court documents, and freezes the assets of the criminals. All these projects require capital and donations can be given through Roberto Chocolate listed above."
Editor's Comment: Hopefully the government of Panama and the National Police, in conjunction with the prosecutors of the Public Ministry, will get serious about both preventing crime, and catching those who have targeted the members of the English speaking expatriate community in Panama. It's good to see the residents of these areas banding together, sharing ideas, and comparing experiences, and working towards a long term strategic solution. I would encourage the members of these communities to keep working, and strengthening their bonds, ties, and contacts with the Panamanian authorities - because that's where the real solution lies. It all comes down to assets (people, cars, radios) and resources (money) the government of Panama can use - if they choose to - in order to improve security and reduce crime.
My observation upon reading the results of this meeting is that it sounds a whole lot like the last meeting. Lots of people were there. The government made promises, but nothing really tangible actually happened, and the second attack against the Rancho Los Toros was not prevented. Will the third attack be prevented? Will those responsible be caught and brought to justice? That remains to be seen. There's always hope.
I would also like to make a recommendation. As this process moves forward, the members of the English speaking community of expatriates should ignore the inevitable crazed rantings of the most vocal "Don Winner hater" (whose name and website I refuse to mention). He always responds with illogical, insane, and emotionally charged vitriol whenever the community comes together in a positive fashion, in an attempt to improve personal security and fight crime. His father committed suicide with a shotgun when he was a child, so he describes anyone who recommends using a firearm for home defense as a "gun nut." That same idiot said I was supposedly selling "stun guns" or some other such nonsense at the last meeting. He's simply crazy - and his agenda takes precedence over everything else. Just ignore him and go about the important business of improving your levels of personal security, working within the legal framework provided by the law, in conjunction with local law enforcement and government personnel. Best of luck to you all.
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