Once Again, Safety Is a Priority
By Jesús Aguado
The creation of the Secretariat of Public Security was finally approved by the San Miguel city council. The secretary is Ricardo Benavides, who assured that he comes to work for the people—Mexicans and foreigners—of this municipality. He also remarked that he will team up with the Director of Security from Querétaro, Rolando Eugenio Hidalgo Eddy, in order to have a militarily organized, controlled, and disciplined organization.
While Mayor Trejo was in the administration, he talked about the creation of this department that would merge the Traffic, Civil Protection, and Alcohol Departments. That was the reason why Octavio Drago was dismissed when he did not pass the confidence and control tests. The city council approved the appointment of Gabriel Arturo Yáñez, from the city of Guanajuato, as the new director. He was to have the goal of forming the Secretariat. Before leaving office on October 9, Yáñez granted an interview to Atención commenting that the pre-project was approved by Trejo’s city council, but the creation of the new department could not happen then due to problems inherited from the previous administration. According to Yáñez, the organization faced the problem of having non-qualified police officers who had not passed the confidence and control tests, and they had to be dismissed. That caused economic damage to the administration, so Yáñez focused his energy on the professionalization and equipping of the police officers. “The decision by the new administration of creating the Secretariat is great,” he admitted.
Before the end of the administration, almost five million pesos were invested for the purchase of five Tacoma trucks, six motorcycles, and a cargo van. The fortification of the department,” commented Yáñez, “also brought the return of the mounted police as a result.” They now have nine horses and patrol the city during special events. Yáñez mentioned that, although the eradication of house robberies was not achieved, the department decreased the numbers from 3.7 robbed houses per one thousand to 2.4.
In an interview granted to Atención, Benavides said, “I come to work for San Miguel and its people. I do not discriminate as to parties. I come to work and to show results.” He also said that the work will be in coordination with the director of Public Security from the city of Querétaro, Hidalgo Eddy, “who is well experienced, and I have worked with him for a long time.” The secretary remarked that “Eddy’s experience has been with the military,” and as a consequence the San Miguel police force will be organized, disciplined, and very strict as it has to be in a armed unit.
During his political campaign, Mayor Ricardo Villarreal advised that one of the directors who would come from outside the city would be for Public Security because the city needed somebody who had already faced worse problems than those we now have in San Miguel. Benavides, from Querétaro, had been director of Public Security in Pedro Escobedo, and he had worked as Director of the Police Academy of San Juan Del Río. At the Querétaro delegation of the Attorney General’s Office, he worked as a personal assistant. From 2008-2014 he was the director of the state penitentiaries in Aguascalientes. While he was director in that city, for four years in a row it received the first place for the best penitentiaries after the national analysis of studies conducted by the National Commission of Human Rights on the internal life in those prisons. The city also merited two second places. There are articles online stating that Benavides was dismissed from his position in 2014. However, when Atención asked, he answered, “I was not dismissed. I resigned because after six years I decided to perform other activities.”
066 remains the main serious challenge
Since the Escudo Program, aimed at providing a better and quicker emergency service was launched, Sanmiguelenses have complained that the emergency calls were not being taken on time, even if they tried several times. The problem began when the Escudo Program connected the 23 emergency centers in the state to the 5Ci, located in the city of Guanajuato. For that reason, the calls from different urban areas and from rural communities, independently of the telephone company, were diverted to Dolores, San Luis de la Paz, or even Querétaro, and later rechanneled to San Miguel.
Nevertheless, the problem goes beyond the area where the calls are made from because the same situation occurs with landline phones from Megacable, Iusacell, Unefon and Nextel. “Yes, we have had some difficulties, like receiving the calls, because too many are diverted to Dolores, but we cannot fix the problem,” said Felipe Cohen, then head of the Civil Protection Department.
Cohen assured that it would be a problem inherited by the current administration but made it clear that the solution does not depend on the municipality but on the State Secretariat of Public Security. Cohen remarked that his office tried its best to solve the problem through the Secretariat but they never received an answer.
Benavides highlighted that during his three-year term the problem has to be solved. “If it does not depend on the municipality,” he said, “then they are going to involve the Federal Secretariat of Communications and Transportation. The 066 emergency system is very important for my secretariat, and that is why it has to be functioning correctly. We will perform all the necessary technological and human changes to receive the calls.” Regardless of the malfunctioning system, Cohen commented that the emergency calls went from 100,000 to 120,000 in the last three years, and that was because sanmiguelenses believe and trust in the service of the emergency department.
Plans of the new secretariat
Secretary Benavides said in addition that citizens’ perception is that safety has decreased in the last years. They are concerned that the crime indexes have increased. I do not want to say that the work has been well or badly performed, but I come here to work for all the sectors of this city,” he expressed.
For Benavides the expat community is very important because they need attention. That is why his office will include them in the safety plans that San Miguel deserves. “There are citizens from several countries, and they have experience in the area, and we will use their expertise for good,” assured the secretary. He commented that they could work in a program to teach English to police officers. On the traffic topic, this public servant said his group are working along with the Public Works Department on an analysis of the city to provide better mobility in San Miguel. The results and the projects will be announced in the months to come. The secretariat, according to Benavides, will be transparent and will hand over required information on time.