In the past The Costa Rica Star published an article about the Tourism Police of Costa Rica going above and beyond.
Since 2007 the British Embassy in San José has been supporting the Costa Rican Tourist Police (CTP) with its English language training programme. This support has taken the form of funding language classes, providing computer equipment as well as encouraging local communities and language institutes to sponsor further English classes for the Tourist Police in their areas. The results have been very positive and have had a measurable impact in improving services for British tourists as well as those from other English-speaking countries.
Over the past few years our Embassy has received several awards from the Costa Rican Ministers of Public Security and Tourism for our support to the Tourist Police. We are now encouraging other Embassies and the private sector to provide additional support to the CTP and the important work they undertake.
The following is guest post by Luis Arroyo, Director of the Costa Rica Tourist Police Unit at Juan Santamaria Airport, which is Costa Rica’s principal airport.
My name is Luis Arroyo, I’m from Costa Rica and I would like to share with you my professional experience. Tourism in Costa Rica is one of the fastest growing economic sectors of the country. In 2010 tourism contributed 5.5% of the country’s GDP and 21.2% of foreign exchange generated by all exports. The tourism boom began in 1987, with the number of visitors going from 329,000 in 1988, to 1.03 million in 1999, to a historical record of 2.2 million foreign visitors in 2011.
I joined the National Police ten years ago and from the moment I joined it was evident that we lacked Police Officers with the necessary English skills to communicate with tourists. Visitors can face all kind of language issues from filling in a police report to recovering a lost document. It was simply impossible for them to interact with the Police. Almost nobody in the entire Force was able to help our tourists and because of this our Government established the Tourist Police Force under the Ministry of Public Security in November in 2006. I began to work with this unit immediately.
Its operations were focused not only on preventing and fighting crimes in public areas, but also on providing tourists with information about safety measures, general information and offering them assistance during their visit. However, all our efforts were not enough to give them suitable attention.
Later, I and some others colleagues received the opportunity to study English with the support of the British Embassy. After 2 years studying English full time I became a Bilingual Officer. Because of my new English skills I was chosen in 2010 to participate with the Japan International Cooperation Agency in a police training program in Tokyo, Japan. Now I’m in charge of the Tourist Police Unit in Juan Santa Maria International Airport, Costa Rica’s main international airport.
Thanks to entities like the British Embassy, this little department isn’t unnoticed anymore. According to Mario Zamora, Minister of Public Security the existence of the Tourist Police helped contribute to a decrease of more than 40% of all reported crimes against tourists between 2006 and 2010.
During the tourist high season our department carries out special operations to protect tourists, developing strategies using new knowledge we have acquired through our experience to create a better relations with our visitors. I have had many opportunities to assist British Citizens and share information with them in order to prevent crime. Unfortunately, there were some cases in which we couldn’t prevent the crime on time. For example, in 2009 I received an emergency call to assist a couple of British tourists because they were victims of a robbery and had lost all their valuables, money and passports. We tried to provide them the best attention we could by contacting their airline and insurance company and putting them in touch with the British Embassy. After they returned to the UK they sent us the following message:
I am writing this letter of appreciation about the Tourist Police Team from Alajuela. On May 30, 2009 I was a victim of a car theft attempt, wherein the rental car I was driving was attacked by an organized car thief group in Santa Ana area. My tyre was punched with the sharp object and the thief was trying to steal the belongings inside the car.
Likely, I knew of this scheme from reading the blogs and locked the car when I went out. I gave the description of the suspects car and the people who surrounded me to the Alajuela team from IST. Particularly, I was impressed by their leader Mr. Luis Arroyo who fluently spoke English and quickly responded by meeting with me right after the accident at the car rental place near the SJ International Airport. I was pleased with the professionalism and responsiveness of the whole Team that was summoned and prepared a police report regarding the incident. They also gave me a phone number of the ICT Police that I can call and speak English to them.
I feel safe returning back to Costa Rica knowing that there is a Tourist Police to protect the visitors there. Now I am back home and wanted to send this letter of appreciation to their superiors.
Best Regards, (a tourist from UK)”
I proudly belong to a Tourist Police Force able to do its job much better than before, with an ever increasing number of bilingual Officers to serve, assist and protect our visitors.
The British Embassy is pleased to announce that this August 20 more Tourist Police Officers will complete an English course funded by our Embassy. The Officers taking this course are based in the province of Guanacaste which attracts thousands of British tourists each year.