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Is San Miguel de Allende a safe city?

By Antonio De Jesús Aguado

After Marcia Dworkin, a Canadian citizen living in San Miguel de Allende, was attacked in her home and later died as a result of her injuries sanmiguelenses are asking for answers from the authorities.

Several times local authorities have expressed that San Miguel de Allende is the safest municipality in Latin America. Nevertheless, instances of heinous crimes that have been perpetrated here have been broadcast internationally, and some are afraid this could negatively affect one of the city’s most important sources of income: tourism.

Based on the police blotter, provided by the Police Department, an average of eight residential robberies are reported weekly. In some cases these robberies have escalated to murder. Some of the most recent such cases in which expats were involved are listed below: On January 19, 2011, the Procuraduría General de Justicia del Estado (State Attorney General’s Office) reported that an American man was murdered in his home during a home invasion, presumably a robbery.

On July 2, 2011, a Canadian woman was murdered in her home in Atotonilco. Only items of low value were taken, and theft was not deemed to be the primary motive of the killer.

In February 2013, an American woman was murdered by her adoptive daughter. The expat community worked along with the authorities and cooperated to supply evidence to the authorities so they could act and capture those responsible. It is the only case that has been solved so far.

In March of this year, a 29-yearold sanmiguelense woman was kidnapped and later murdered. Mexicans and expats gathered at a march demanding security and requested a meeting with Mayor Mauricio Trejo, who assured them the police would work with the Procuraduría to solve the case. The demonstrators also had a meeting with the then district attorney in the city, Miguel Ángel Rangel Zendejas.

Finally, on September 16 the Police Department received an emergency call from Manjarrez de Mexiquito, where her housekeeper discovered Marcia Dworkin unconscious in her home and badly beaten. A strongbox had presumably been stolen from her house. Dworkin was air-lifted to Canada and passed away days later. The district attorney of Region D in San Miguel, René Urrutia, told Atención that they have been working since the report was received and there are several lines of investigation. Urrutia said they will continue the investigation even if there are no relatives or residents following this crime; he also commented that they will continue working with the evidence and said that they are working with the expat community in their own language (English).

Unofficial information stated that the victim had sold her house and received a large amount of money (more than one million pesos), which she kept in the stolen strongbox. Atención contacted one of the realtors working to sell Dworkin’s house. The realtor said that the house had not been sold yet, and they did not make a deposit because the contract was going to be signed on Friday, September 20. District Attorney  René Urrutia told Atención that Dworkin’s relatives said that they did not know exactly what valuables Dworkin might have had, but there would not have been many.

After the crime, there were dozens of comments on social networks as well as on the Civil List. Social activist David Bossman told Atención that although they are not completely blaming the authorities for not apprehending the murderer, they are demanding responses. He said that the local authorities are very interested in their program of beautification, but remarked, “If there is no security then tourists will not come, because the goose that lays the golden egg is being strangled.” He said that the expat community is peacefully waiting for answers, but if the case is not solved they are ready to act.

Gabriel Arturo Yáñez Saldaña, director of the Public Security Department, said that they are already working to hold meetings in English with the expat community to describe the programs Vecino Vigilante and Vecino Solidario, because these criminal acts can only be prevented if residents are integrated with their neighbors and the authorities. “It is a way to be protected from crime,” he said.

The director also noted that they have more than 30,000 houses and more than 150,000 inhabitants to take care of with 30 patrols, 12 motorcycles and more than 200 police officers. Saldaña noted that a safe city is not one where there are more police officers, but one where there is social organization and the inhabitants respect the public politics. “We have to work together,” he said.

The district attorney will be giving an interview to Atención in which he will discuss the status of the previous murder cases.

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