San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Ombudsman’s Office Calls for Better Southern Zone Safety

The Ombudsman’s Office announced Wednesday that it is ramping up its efforts to bring security to Costa Rica’s Southern Zone after a year of receiving complaints from residents in Pérez Zeledón and Ciudad Neily.

According to complaints, citizens believe “an insufficient number of police officers exist in the area, especially in communities that are difficult to access.”

Neither the Ombudsman’s Office nor the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) had specifics on the number of police that patrol the area, but both agreed more officers are necessary.

“These are very remote, unpatrolled places, which make them easy for drug traffickers to pass through and create insecurity in the region,” said Ahmed Blanco, a press officer for the Ombudsman’s Office.

Ricardo González, a press officer for the OIJ, said a major problem in the Southern Zone is a “lack of communication.”

The area’s close proximity to Panama and hard-to-reach towns form an ideal corridor for smugglers sending drugs from South America to the United States and make it a difficult region to monitor, González noted.

“We need more equipment – radios, telephones, cars,” he said. “We can’t combat drug trafficking or respond to the citizens if they can’t contact us and we can’t talk to each other.”

Blanco said the Ombudsman’s Office will begin working with the OIJ, the courts and the National Police to strengthen patrol efforts and upgrade equipment to combat crime in the southern communities.

The office will also increase the amount of workshops it provides to citizens in the Southern Zone. The workshops are designed to teach residents what to do and whom to contact in the event of a crime.

In the past year, the Ombudsman’s Office has received more than 1,600 complaints from the Brunca region – where Pérez Zeledón and Ciudad Neily are located – although not all the complaints were related to security issues.

–Mike McDonald


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