Sunday 10 February 2013

Puerta Vallarta mayor says police force will be best paid in country

Tourist police in PV...At your service
After the attack on the life of Puerto Vallarta’s police chief last year, which led to his resignation and a distinctly lower profile for the new chief, legitimate concerns were raised that the tourist haven risked slipping into the grip of organized crime.

This perception wasn’t helped when, within hours of each other on February 6, a kidnap victim jumped out of a second-floor window in the Jarretaderas neighbourhood, near Puerto Vallarta’s airport, and young gangsters engaged in a shootout with police north of Puerto Vallarta after holding up a gas station.

Some media reports directly following last year’s attack on the chief suggested that he may have fallen victim to the notorious Los Zetas cartel. However, analysis from La politica suggests that the chief was caught between the demands of two other organizations fighting for control over Puerto Vallarta’a plaza: the Knights Templar, active in Michoacán, and the Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (the “Jalisco New Generation Cartel”, also known as CJNG and Matazetas).

The Knights Templar have been actively pushing into Jalisco – the two men arrested in the gas station attack were from Michoacán – and La politica believes that the murder of two police chiefs in Jalisco this year were possibly the result of the Knights Templar attempting to pull those plazas away from CJNG control. As well, the CJNG, now cut loose from its masters in the Sinaloa Cartel, appears to be ramping up its attacks within Michoacán.

This puts Puerto Vallarta in a tough spot. To address the security needs of tourists, the mayor, Ramón Guerrero Martínez, recently announced a more advanced certification program for the tourist police (Certificación de la Policía Turística), which is supported by the Centro Universitario de la Costa. There are 40 officers in the first group, who will undergo 90 hours of training on cultural and tourism issues, as well as English. In total, 150 officers will be trained.

The mayor said that this will provide a path to upward mobility for tourist police wanting to climb the ranks. He also said that before he leaves office the Puerto Vallarta police force would be the best paid in the country, though he was light on the details.

Better pay and more training should provide a buffer of sorts for on the ground corruption, particularly as it pertains to foreigners. So, they won’t get shaken down, but their Mexican neighbours may not be so lucky.

And we don’t know what the back-story is in terms of criminal influences within the local police. For example, the woman who was kidnapped and who escaped on February 6 was clearly the victim of a “back-channel” operation, which is to say the municipal police were either not contacted or were directly involved. As it stands, 90% of kidnappings in Mexico involve some sort of collusion with the police.

As for the gringos who live and vacation around Puerto Vallarta, little will change, unless they get hit by a stray bullet during a shootout. But, as many are wont to say, “It can happen anywhere” – or at least anywhere where there are shootouts.

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

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