Fed up with rising crime and limited National Police presence, residents of Flamingo, a town on the Pacific coast in the northwest province of Guanacaste, last month contracted a private security force to patrol their community’s streets and nearby beaches.
According to Hubert Gysemans, president of the Flamingo Development Association board of directors, the private “police” force is “going very well.”
“We have caught drug dealers, robbers, thugs and car thieves,” said Gysemans, a transplanted Belgian who has been living in Costa Rica for 26 years. According to Gysemans, the association signed an agreement with the Public Security Ministry, allowing the private security guards to capture alleged criminals and hand them over to the newly formed government Tourism Police (TT, Dec. 22, 2006).
The private force – at a cost of $15,000 a month paid for by businesses and members of the Flamingo community – includes three guards patrolling on motorcycle during the day and four at night, supported by a supervisor in a pickup truck and a central office with a radio, operating 24 hours a day “where people can call and the dispatcher radios the motorcycle and tells them where the action is,” Gysemans explained.
Since the force began operating in December 2006, guards have handed over seven alleged criminals to the police, he said.
This week, representatives of the Flamingo-area Web site GringoFlamingo.com sent out a statement announcing the donation of two radar guns to Carabineros de la Peninsula, S.A., the private security firm contracted by the Flamingo Development Association.
“It is hoped that the radar guns will assist in reducing the sometimes dangerous speeding situation on the area’s roads,” the statement said.
However, because the private police contract is with the Public Security Ministry, and not the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MOPT) – whose Transit Police have the sole right to enforce traffic laws – it is unclear if the private police can legally use the radar guns. MOPT did not return The Tico Times’ request for clarification by press time.