Wednesday, September 26, 2007

not so comic comedy cops

Returning the hire car I gave a lift to a local cop. Not so local really, he was from the other side of the country. Costa Rica has the bizarre practice of stationing cops in regions other than their own. They live in the police station for 3 weeks at a time then return home for 2. This explains why there is always so much laundry hanging behind the station and why it’s common to see them brushing their teeth at an outside sink in the morning. It also explains why every single local can point out all the thieves, crackheads and dealers in the street but the cops don’t know. I can’t fathom why Costa Rica does this – surely in this very community orientated culture it makes sense for the cops to be part of the community, to know the people. Outside cops have less connection, less interest in the community and must be open to more bribes because of this. Earning the equivalent of $200 a month also encourages the taking of bribes. In Puerto Viejo they have one police car, it broke down and the community had to fundraise to have it fixed. People say it’s because the government has no interest in Limon province: I have heard that if you want a cop to come to your home you have to pay for their gas to reach you. They do have flak jackets and guns: they were wearing them for the high school parade on Independence Day, standing on street corners looking very official and macho. In general they are very high profile, but that seems to be about all they are.

There have been 4 rapes here recently: single tourists cycling alone at night, all the same m.o.. everyone in town knows who’s doing it: the son of Giri, the biggest local dealer. The rapist arrived back in town from an 8 year stint in prison for the same, 2 weeks before the first rape. Seemingly one has to have fingerprints to prove a crime here and getting fingerprints is a 2 month long process in san jose. With no victims pushing the cops there’s seems incredibly to be no hurry. Everyone knows who this guy is, I don’t understand why the locals aren’t doing something. I know that ticos watch rather than do – the machete fight in Las Juntas is proof of that – but why don’t the gringos here take action? Believing in the system?