Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - Puerto Vallarta's new neighborhood-based crime prevention program, VEA (Vecinos En Alerta or 'Neighbors on the Lookout') is already working.
Sort of a 'Neighborhood Watch' on steroids, VEA provides instant reporting via Whatsapp, and the Amapas Neighborhood Association (ANA) has been participating in the program since its inception. In a recent example of VEA's ability to summon immediate police response, last month ANA Board Member for Security, Gene Mendoza, used the Whatsapp group to trigger a life-saving rapid response from authorities.
This is the second of a series of ANA reports on Police/Security issues, VEA meetings and follow-ups. (You can read the first one HERE.)
VEA Report #2: Reporting Crime and Police Response Procedures
I called the police, now what?
The first response to reported crime or crime in progress is taken by the municipal police who will arrive and take action to stabilize the situation and coordinate care for any injured parties. With that accomplished, the police will make a report of what transpired including an initial report of any property losses. Be sure to get a copy of the police report number for further reference, and email it to ANA Administrator Viviana Teston at admin(at)amapaspv.com for follow up.
The municipal police serve primarily as Preventive Police (Policía Preventiva) and do not investigate crime, but collect and catalogue crime information to identify emerging patterns or trends that might aid in future crime prevention. They then file a report that is passed up the chain of command for more complete investigation.
Investigation of the Crime by Agents of the District Attorney
No later than two to three days after the initial crime report is taken by the municipal police, victims should expect to be contacted by the investigative Ministerial Police who perform the preliminary investigation. These officers, from the District Attorney's Office (Fiscalía), will collect and catalogue the crime information for the purpose of apprehending and prosecuting the perpetrators.
The formal preparation of victims' statements is very important to the Mexican legal system, but the District Attorney stated in the February 16th VEA meeting that victims should not be required to visit the District Attorney's Office to sign the formal translation of their statements.
Victims of property crime, including theft and burglary, should expect to be asked to demonstrate their ownership of the stolen property through sales receipts, model and serial number information, or the statement of a witness (friend or neighbor) vouching for the presence of the property before the crime.
Most cases of petty property crime will not require the use of the Expert Services Unit, more commonly referred to on TV as the crime scene investigators, or CSI. However, in serious crimes, these services may be employed to take finger prints and collect other forensic evidence.
So, if you're the victim of a crime, the arrival of the Municipal Police is just the beginning, not the end, of your involvement. If the Investigative Police don't show up after two or three days, you should get in touch with the Fiscalía – see, we told you that police report number would come in handy – and follow up.
As the DA explained in our second meeting, every police force at every level has limited resources to pursue criminal cases, so they prioritize – the worst crimes, and crimes most likely to be solved, understandably get the most attention.
If your case is relatively minor, or unlikely to be solved (lack of witnesses, lack of evidence, etc.), it may not get the attention you think it deserves. If that's the situation, it's up to you to push the DA's office for more follow-up.
You can also contact the Department of Tourism's Legal Attention to Visitors Office, which offers free legal assistance to tourists and resident expats. Their office in Cardenas Park is open Monday-Friday, 8 to 4. There's also a desk in the Tourism office in the downtown City Hall, Monday-Friday, 8-8. English is spoken, and they offer help with translation. The office phone is 322-222-2224. Initial complaints can be made by email, preferably with details and photos included. The legal attention office's email is atencionaturistas(at)turismopuertovallarta.com.
The Amapas Neighborhood Association is the official association of residents and business owners in the Colonia Amapas of Puerto Vallarta. A volunteer and not-for-profit association with about 350 members, the ANA was founded in 2002 to improve the quality of life in Amapas. We work to keep our neighborhood safe, beautiful, desirable and welcoming to tourists and residents from all countries and walks of life. We are also the official "Junta Vecinal" or neighborhood council for Amapas, the legal representative of the neighborhood to the city government. Learn more at AmapasPV.com.