Seven days with the Nosara Police District How much do you know about them?
Written and Photographed by piNAR ISTEK
The shotgun that was found in a car was brought to the station and reported to Nicoya. The notebook under the arm is the daily journal of the Guiones station. Every single action taken should be entered along with the names and the commitment time.
Guiones – On Saturday, August 7, the Nosara police station received a call about a street fight. I followed the police motorcycles on my quad and we came across two drunk, half-naked men yelling at each other and trying to fight in the rain. After a short talk with the police, they seemed to calm down and began heading home.
Jeison Vargas Alvarado said that, “the police should do things with intelligence not with force”.
On our way back, we passed by one of their houses and one of the men was causing a scene in front of his house. I walked closer to take better pictures without realizing that the police weren’t even entering the garden of the house. Right away, I received a warning from one of the officers to stay and wait outside.
According to Costa Rican law, police are not allowed to enter the houses in situations like these without judicial authorization. Several police officers from Nosara and Guiones mentioned that the police department of Costa Rica serves a more preventive function, and the law that regulates their responsibilities is constructed around this idea. “The police are not allowed to take pictures or digital finger prints, either”, said Asdrubal Chacón Venegas, an officer from the Guiones station.
That Saturday night, Nosara police received several calls about the same incident. After many trips back and forth, they finally brought the two offenders to the station. Even though the incident happened nearby, it took a while, as there is no patrol car in Nosara or in Guiones. The police need to escort all offenders in to the station on foot. “For security purposes, it is prohibited to have a civilian on the motorcycles,” Zaiden Gnanados Obando, an officer from the Nosara station said. In a case when they definitely need a car, it is requested from the Nicoya station. However, Agnes Pinheiro, the president of the Nosara Community Security Association, said that they are in the process of receiving a patrol car for the Nosara Police Department.
Not having a patrol car is not the only problem. The Nosara Community Security Association, which was created by the community in November 2009 to help the tourist police, is in charge of collecting donations to support the tourist police. The tourism chamber is another supportive organization.
However, according to Agnes Pinheiro, the tourism chamber hasn’t begun to collect any donations. “Ink for the printer, curtains, utilities and the rent of the office are paid with the community support, whereas food, gas and salaries are provided by the government support,” said Jeison Vargas Alvarado, the chief superintendent officer. However, they are still short in certain office supplies.
On the other hand, the Nosara station is completely dependent on government support. The better condition of the Guiones station speaks for itself.
In addition, the total of 4 motorcycles – one allocated to the Nosara station and three to the Guiones station – and 23 all-male staff is not enough to cover such a large area. “The police cover the area from Barco Quebrado to Santa Teresa. Sometimes we also cover the cases in Ostional since it is also considered to be a touristic area,” Santos Gomez said. It is estimated that there are around 5000 residents in Nosara and the surrounded areas to cover. Considering each night or day shift would have 12 officers, there are almost 500 residents to cover for each officer during one shift.
There aren’t any female police officers either in Nosara nor in Guiones. When they need to search a female offender, they can’t do much besides searching their belongings. Otherwise, they have to request a female officer from the Nicoya station. According to Asdrubal Chacón Venegas, either the Guiones station or the Nosara station has enough space to accommodate female officers.
This person was found sleeping on the ground that night. When he was woken up, from being drunk, he could barely get up. After he and his bag were searched, he was asked to leave and go home.
In the Nosara station, the office, dorm, and the kitchen they are all attached to each other. The dorm section accommodates three bunk beds.
Jose Filiberto Mora Gómez is taking some notes in his pocket journal under his flashlight in the dorm.
Jose Filiberto Mora Gómez is cleaning the kitchen at Nosara station, while the dinner is cooking.
During one of the nightly patrols, the police came across “Miseria”(in the middle). He is a well-known drug dealer in this region. Generally when he is caught, he can’t be arrested, because he usually doesn’t carry anything on him. But that night, the police actually could arrest him as he was caught almost in action.
However, the biggest problem they face is the limitations from the Costa Rican law. They are aware of the fact that the community feels that police responses are inadequate. Frustrated like many other officers, Zaiden Gnanados Obando said that, “it is not that the police don’t want to take action, it is because they can’t take action”.
Robbie Vikers, a local business owner, commented that there has definitely been an improvement in beach security with the presence of the tourist police. However, if he were really in danger? “I wouldn’t wanna be relying on them to come and save me.”
Agnes Pinheiro finds some of the complaints unjust. She said that people who complain about efficiency are not aware of the priorities in a local police station. For example, a domestic violence issue can come before a minor theft case. She also points out the large area they have to cover with no car and just a few motorcycles.
Apart from the difficulties with their job, Asdrubal Chacón Venegas said that, “it is like a family here.” For days, they work 12 hour-shifts. They eat together. They sleep in the same rooms. They live together. While one does the office work, another one can prepare lunch or dinner before their coworkers return from a daily road control.Whilst dealing mostly with drug addicts or drug dealers, domestic violence cases or streets fights, being away from their families for about one week at a time makes it emotionally harder. However, in spite of all the sacrifice that they have to do, they all seem to be aware of the heavy responsibility that their job places on their shoulders and try to do their best.
Additionally, Agnes Pinheiro informed that the next goal is to build one big police station in Nosara town. Associacion Desarollo Integral de Nosara is in the process of donating the land for the new station to Ministerio de Seguridad. Once the donation is done, different projects for the construction will be proposed to Dirección Nacional de Desarrollo de la Comunidad (DINADECO) to receive the financial support.
About the tourist police in Guiones, Agnes commented that, “They need our support, because they can’t do their job without our help”. Rusbel Noquera V, another local business owner who supports the tourist police through the Nosara Community Security Association, said that he would keep helping them as long as they need.
As Asdrubal Chacón Venegas said “it is like a family here”, the officers take care of each other. Gerardo Fanseca Fanseca shaving Raul Obando Guademos’ hair.
Guiones Tourist Police department in collaboration with Nosara Police does daily road controls. During these road controls, the officers stop the vehicles and search them and their drivers. When they stop a public bus, they do ID checks throughout the entire bus.
The entrance of Hollywood. The drug visitors of Hollywood created this barrier out of woods to be able to slow down police intervention and to gain some extra time to escape. Their tactic definitely works in their favor. Everytime we tried to enter Hollywood, we had to clean up some of the woods to be able to go further.
The same night, this guy was found consuming drugs in another desolate location. As it is illegal to use drugs even on an individual basis, he was arrested and brought to the Nosara police station.
Pinar Istek, originally from Turkey, is a photojournalism master’s student at Misosuri School of Journalism. While working as a freelancer for Voice of Nosara, Pinar followed the police departments of Guiones and Nosara for one week to tell this story.
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