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Safety Figures in San Miguel

Ricardo Villarreal

Mayor Ricardo Villarreal

Lucy Nuñez, former mayor of San Miguel de Allende

Former Mayor Jesús Correa

By Jesús Aguado

When giving opinions about the crime in San Miguel de Allende, people should do it responsibly, with precise information. Citizens must be prudent and verify the information because, according to two former mayors and Mayor Ricardo Villarreal, the misinformation can result in misrepresentation of the city’s security. But, what is the reality for the Sanmiguelenses?

The Executive Secretariat of the National System of Public Safety updates the numbers of crimes registered in the Mexican Republic monthly—by state and city—based on the criminal complaints filed before the District Attorney’s Office of each region. The statistics are public and anyone can access them. Atención checked the numbers and, according to the comparative chart that we present from 2011–2016, this year has not been the most violent; neither was 2015.

An article about security, published in the national newspaper Reforma, has created controversy and alarm among citizens and politicians. The article contained quotes from David Bossman, president of Sanmiguelenses Unidos, a group of American and Mexican citizens of San Miguel who are concerned about safety and crime issues. Although Bossman said he was misquoted, the article has caused a stir for including sentences like the following, attributed to Bossman: “When somebody is walking alone on the streets, it is better to get a taxi because it is probable he will be a victim of a crime because there are so many assaults.” The article also mentions three murders of expats registered in 2015. Later, Bossman said that the reporter misquoted him, and there were several other errors in the article.  “My apologies to anyone who thought that the original, sensationalized article had merit. It doesn’t.” (Bossman’s full response about the problematic article is below.)

The numbers will be improved

Mayor Ricardo Villarreal granted an interview to Atención during which he commented that the information from Reforma is not correct, telling the expat community that “the official figures are clear, and they state that safety has been improved.” According to Mayor Villareal, the figures published are out of context, “such as the death of three expats last year.” He also noted that in 2016 not a single tourist or expat has been murdered. “In general, the number of murders has not increased, and we have not had kidnappings.” Regarding house robberies, Villarreal advised that the crime has decreased, and if “we make a comparison” with 2013 within the period from January through August, there were 165 house robberies then, 180 in 2014, and 127 in 2015. This year there have been 99 in the same period. “We have decreased that crime by 50 percent, compared to 2014.” Also, he said, the good news is that the robberies have not been violent. “I have to say that those crimes are also a fact of opportunity when there is nobody at home.” Villarreal commented that this year just two assaults have been reported. His numbers are like those that Atención got from the National System.

Regarding the car thefts/robberies, he said that the crime has diminished 15 percent. Although he mentioned the case of an American woman who was assaulted in her home and murdered in October 2015 when he began his administration, he gave the opinion that the crime against the expat community has come to an end. He stated that those responsible were imprisoned. Villarreal remarked further that murders registered in the city are against people who are involved in illegal activities, and in general, the city is safe.

For that reason, he said the number of visitors to the city keeps growing and this year will close with an increase of 30 percent compared to 2015, with more than 1.5 million tourists. That, he said, is reflected in the confidence of the investments that have arrived the city. For example, “Thirty new restaurants have opened and 20 new hotels, one of which will be a luxury one. Aqua is under construction with an investment of 900 million pesos. It will generate direct employment for 300 [people].”

Atención questioned the mayor about what he expects the numbers will be at the close of this year. Mayor Villarreal noted that safety “will be improved,” thanks to the arrest of a leader/dealer of drugs and also because the man responsible for the explosion at a bar on Calzada de la Estación is behind bars. “We are working hard, trying our best to have a safe city, and the numbers are proof of it. We will arrest criminals and put them in jail. If after that they are released because of the new legal system, then Sanmiguelenses will have to watch over them. We have improved [by] 275 percent the number of people arrested for possession of controlled substances and [by] 66 percent the detentions of people with guns, compared to 2015. We closed seven pawnshops that were operating illegally and where for sure appliances stolen from homes were sold.”

Mayor Villarreal also mentioned the closing of seven bars in the city, some of them on the Libramiento Manuel Zavala where, he remarked, there were sales of drugs and prostitution. He said, “Everybody knew how these places were operating, but nobody had the guts to close them. I did.” Villarreal noted that the number of murders is not above the average from other years.

“The article from Reforma is political”

Luz María Núñez Flores was mayor of the city from 2009–2012. She is also a journalist and has her own TV program, Contrantes, that is broadcast on the local radio station. She told Atención that the security topic is sometimes used to damage the image of an administration, but people have to be careful because “one thing is what they publish and the other, very different, is the reality that Sanmiguelenses are living.”

Being the host of the program helps her to get information on how people feel on the topic of safety. “We cannot deny that there are murders,” she said, but from her perspective, in other years the administration did not work on prevention. Besides, they had a three-year period of ignoring the topic, and that was the reason the number of crimes increased in 2014 and 2015. She also said that the cause may be social inequality and the lack of opportunities, “but the public budget is never enough.” For that reason, some Sanmiguelenses decided to get involved in illegal activities like drug selling. She said she truly believes what Mayor Villarreal has said on the murder topic: that those who have been killed are involved in drugs, and that there are problems between two cartels that want to take control of the city selling their [illegal] products. She said she also thinks that there is improvement in safety.

“Safety will be improved in the city, and I feel that the administration is trying its best. Ricardo Benavides (Secretary of Public Safety) is a good leader, and he has the task of recovering the confidence that was lost during the last administration, 2012–2015, because we all love this city,” she remarked. Núñez also attributed the article from Reforma to politicians against the local government. She said they have the goal of creating an imbalance in the current administration, maximizing the facts for damaging the image, not just of the government, but of the city.

“The best way to give opinion on safety is by analyzing the work that the government is performing to know if we are safer. As a citizen I believe they are working, and as a journalist I can tell you that people feel tranquil,” she stated. “There is crime in San Miguel, but it has always been there. We should not let ourselves be dragged [down] by misinformation with political goals.”

“The government can perform better”

Jesús Correa was mayor of the city from 2006–2009. On the safety topic, he told Atención that when he walked the streets, there was a perception of insecurity when people talked to him. That, he said, was because San Miguel is a tourist destination and that also makes it a target for organized crime. “And we cannot deny that it is here.” He also noted that the insecurity problem is not peculiar to San Miguel but to the country, and it is due to the lack of strategies for prevention. “The government is working, but it can perform better,” he said.

Social Networks complicate the crime issue

Mayor Ricardo Villarreal said that sometimes in social media, people “publish information about murders that do not exist.” He acknowledged that there are more murders than anybody wants, but most of them are related to drugs, “and if they are involved in organized crime, it is very difficult to take care of them.” Finally, Villarreal said that economic development is needed for prevention, and for that reason more than five billion pesos are being invested in the Industrial Zone for the construction of 10 more factories that will generate hundreds of jobs in the months to come. Currently there are 600 people working in the area.

To former mayor and journalist, Luz María Núñez, the social networks are very dangerous because, she says, “There are people who call themselves journalists just because they publish on social networks, and they are no more than trolls paid by political opponents to the local administration, and they want to create an imbalance. They publish so-called news and they create unrest. Due to the lack of verification, people pass along misinformation that is used by national and international media, but, indeed, nothing was wrong.” She has invited all those who love San Miguel to stop the circulation of bad information, and to stop all those who want to damage our city economically.

Former mayor Jesús Correa advises citizens to be more prudent about accepting the news or posts they read and to verify the information before sharing it. He also blamed the three levels of government for the misinformation because there is a lack of official information coming out immediately. Correa also thinks that some politicians are behind the article in Reforma. According to Correa, “We cannot give bad publicity to San Miguel because we will damage tourism, and most of the economy depends on visitors.”

David Bossman’s response

David Bossman canceled an interview with Atención and instead sent this text: “I was recently misquoted in Reforma, an important national newspaper, regarding some important local security matters. The telephone interview was conducted in Spanish. The reporter did not even get the name of our organization correct. Now, the misinformation is being syndicated in online publications like The Mexico City News.

While the intention was to focus on our Ministerio Publico, my words were taken out of context. For example, I NEVER stated that crime had increased in San Miguel. There are other errors in the story as well. My apologies to anyone who thought that the original, sensationalized article had merit. It doesn’t.”

Comparative chart

These figures are based on the information published on line by the Executive Secretariat of the National System of Public Safety. The reported indexes of crime are from January to December from 2011–2015 and from Jan–Aug in 2016.

These figures do not include federal crimes. The Executive Secretariat of the National System of Public Security states that the crime incidence or the “alleged” register of crimes is based on the previous inquiries reported in the Attorney’s General Office of the 32 states of the Republic, and those General Offices are responsible for their veracity and updating of the facts.

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