Monday, January 23, 2006

Crime in Paradise

At 6:00 AM the phone rang. Ned answered. Our friend was on the line. She was calling to ask us to come. She had been raped and the man had just left her house. Thank God, although she had been raped she had not been beaten and battered or cut. This is the third rape that we know of in the last 4 months. All single gringas living alone.

Helping our friend (who for the rest of this report I'll just call Sue) was a lesson in the Mexican justice system. We knew that there are different kinds of police, the preventative police, the transit police and the ministerial police. The preventative and transit police are a part of the city government but the ministerial police who investigate and prosecute crimes are a part of the State government.

We immediately reported the rape to the emergency number that you call for the police....this is the preventative police. So far as we know there is no way to call the ministerial police. When we reached Sue's house, the preventative police had arrived. Apparently they did not get any information on what had happened from the dispatcher because they asked her, "You have a problem?" They did not take any notes and when we asked for their names, they only had small pieces of paper to write on. They wrote down the address of the ministerial police and said we should go immediately to report the rape to them.

The preventative police do not do any investigations when they come nor do they report anything to the ministerial police. In order to file a crime report the crime must be reported in person in Spanish to the ministerial police and you must go to their office in order to do that. If you are injured and can not go, I guess the crime goes unreported until you are well enough to go.

When we arrived at the ministerial police station, Sue asked if there was a doctor so that she could be examined to prove that she had been raped. From what we had heard about one of the other rapes, this was necessary for them to be able to investigate the rape. They told us that there wasn't a doctor. Our friend said she wanted to see a doctor and asked if she need to go to the hospital. They said yes. She could go to the hospital.

At the hospital, everyone was nice but there wasn't a gynecologist there and they had to call one in. It took a while for him to arrive but he did a thorough examination including photographs. We waited for the report which they told us might not be official and that Sue might have to see a doctor at the police station to "verify" the rape. By now we are confused. We don't have any idea how there could be a place at the police station where an examination could be performed and besides the police seemed vague about a doctor.

From our first experience at the police station, we realized that neither Sue or Ned's Spanish was going to be up to the task, so we called another couple who are friends (we'll just call them Ann and Mel) and they speak better Spanish. They joined us at the hospital and after we got the typed report and photographs all in a neat file folder, we went back to the ministerial police headquarters.

First, Sue and Ann meet with someone who interviewed them but didn't take any notes. When asked why he wasn't writing anything down he said he had to know about the incident to decide what to do. From that, we assumed he meant that unless they could convince him that a crime had taken place they would not be able to file a report. Finally he brought Sue and Ann out into a large open office where other people were close by and Sue was asked to give her "declaration" about the rape. At one point children were sitting within about 3 feet of Sue as she was trying to describe the details of the rape. She protested and the children were moved away. Not only did the clerk need to know about the rape but they also needed to know her parents names. Parents names are very important in Mexico even though we are not talking about a girl who was raped but a mature woman.

After the "declaration" had been typed into the computer, Sue still had to talk to a ministerial policeman and then she was directed to go to yet another place on the outskirts of town to see the doctor who would also examine her. He was the "expert" who could testify in court if the rapist should ever be found. At this location they also had a psychologist there to talk to her. Finally she came back to our house at 2:00 PM to have "breakfast" and coffee. Mel met the ministerial police at 1:30 PM at her house to open it up so that they could conduct their investigation.

There is crime in Paradise.....right here in San Miguel de Allende and it isn't easy to report a crime. Sue has done everything that we understand needs to be done to file the report. She did it for all the women in San Miguel because we often hear that the ministerial police don't know about an attack or robbery because a "proper report" had not been filed.

We'll see what the ministerial police do now. The rapist in the other two cases hasn't been apprehended. But maybe there will be more action this time. The Mayor of the town lives in the same Colonia that Sue does.


Deb said...

Billie -

I've enjoyed reading your blog for several months now, but was horrified by this post. I had known about the other two rapes and tried to be aware and conscientious while I was in San Miguel over the holidays. I even canceled a recent trip where I would be alone in my house.

As little information has been published in the Attencion on the past two situations, I did read some helpful advice in the Jan. 6 edition. There is a bi-lingual contact at the police investigations unit, Miguel Kegal. His number is 152-0022 or 044-415-153-4761 for emergencies. It seems his job is to aid the English-speaking community in filing the proper paper work and meeting with the Ministerio Pulico (District Attorney) in cases. It probably wouldn't hurt to contact him now, but to also keep his number handy for future problems. I know I have put his number in my wallet and in my house in SMA.

My heart goes out to your friend - I wish her well. She is very brave for going through the unpleasant Mexican beauracracy. I hope enough can be done to find the person responsible and paradise can become safe again.

BillieS said...

Deb, The emergency number for Miquel Kegal was not working over the weekend. I wish we would have had his assistance.

BillieS said...

update: Miguel Kagel came to see "Sue" on Sunday. We told the ministerial police that we were trying to get in touch with him and they must have finally contacted him. So while the emergency number didn't work, he did find out about the rape and responded.

Heather said...

I'm so sorry your friend had this happen to her. She sounds very brave to have gone through what she went through to have it reported properly to help catch this person before it happens again. You are also a very good friend helping her with this as well. I hope they find this person soon.