The mayor of La Candelaria, Bogota‘s most touristy district, said Tuesday that her administration has requested increased police presence after a series of violent hostel robberies.
La Candelaria Mayor Xinia Rocio Navarro Prada told Colombia Reports that requests for a permanent police post (CAI) in the district were denied for technical reasons in 2011, but that the local administration is working to add it into the 2012 budget. In addition, Navarro reported that the mayor’s office requested a mobile police unit (CAI Mobil), but are currently awaiting approval.
Following the April 13 hostel attack in which an American tourist was sexually assaulted, police carried out 12 raids and arrested three suspects who are directly linked to the robbery, said the mayor.
According to Navarro Prado, she was never officially informed by police of any sexual abuse occurring during the robbery, but previous testimony presented by the victim suggests that police took the American and her friend to the airport without filing a report.
Backlash from reports of seven different hostel robberies since June 2010, coupled with the report of the April 13 robbery and sexual assault, sparked the local hostel association to plead for help from their local government and police after what the hostel owners say was a steep drop in visits, particularly by female travelers.
Hostel owners met with the local administration twice in two weeks to discuss their apprehension and to suggest measures that could be taken to improve security in the area. However, according to some association members, the mayor did not approach the topic with an appropriate sense of urgency. Excerpts from a letter that the association delivered to the mayor’s office at the meeting state:
The wave of insecurity presented in our locality started with street
robbery and has risen to cause injury to those affected; in the last
year the violence has increased with acts of hostage-taking and sexual
abuse against tourists. We haven't obtained improvements in the security
from the local authorities, even though they have been advised and sent
on different opportunities letters and verbal communications.
National and international reports on the robberies of tourists make for
the end of tourism not just in the locality of La Candelaria and Bogota
but in the whole country, now that this bad image reflects on a national
and international level.
In the letter, the association offered up a number of security suggestions including, fixed police presence in the locality, investment in security resources such as cameras and presence of police during night hours.
According to Oscar Payan, a member of the hostel association, requests for more security have not been met by the local authorities; however, local police did come by to assess security measures at each hostel. During the visits, local authorities have repeatedly demanded licensing paperwork for all of the hostels, a measure that Payan says the association welcomes, but is perceived as bullying by some of the hostel owners.