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Update on crime

The police have been vigilant about cleaning up the mess of the maras in El Salvador, lately, arresting groups of gang members in one sweep quite often. There have been many arrests, but what I'm seeing is that when people are murdered by maras, it appears only days later the suspects are picked up and arrested. They seem to target right in.

Still, in a country where they recruit at the schools and by force, there are always replacements and since they target very young kids because they don't get sentenced as tough, this is an uphill battle.

There is a new program asking people to report any crimes they see and retain anonymity. I think this could be effective, because already people are reporting extortion and seeing arrests. I'm thinking that with the monitoring of cell phone calls, people turning in crimes, and the combination of long sentences (from 20 to 95 years ) this could clean up the problem. But it will take a long time.

The problem, I'm learning is that it is not only the maras practicing extortion. There are bands of extortionists who also try to bilk the vendors and working people out of their money. But extortion is high on the police list here of who to arrest. And unlike Mexico, it appears the police here are mostly honest and dedicated people who do their jobs as defined, instead of getting paid off by criminals. That is reassuring, because in Mexico half of the police were paid for by the drug cartels.

There are many private neighborhoods sprouting up with high security protecting the entrances now in El Salvador, because of the problem with crime. Communities like River Gardens seem to focus on the fact they offer strong security when they market their homes and this seems to be the trend. I'm told to shop at the Mercado in San Salvador, I shouldn't even wear costume jewelry or any clothing that demonstrates a lot about being from the states. Nothing that draws attention, because these are the signals the criminals look for. I'm also told that the baggy clothing and baseball caps that many Americans wear is probably not wise. I have some brass bangle bracelets that aren't worth much so I was wearing them. I was told not to do this in certain places because they might be confused for 10 karat gold and I could be robbed. I've learned that about the only place I can wear any jewelry such as my diamond pendent and gold chain is at the malls or where there is high security, otherwise they will rip it off my neck.

For the most part, El Salvador is safe as long as you use your head. I'm told to stay away from places like Soyapango and I'm told that many of the maras concentrate on beach areas where surfers hang out, because of their tendency to smoke pot. The maras sell drugs in these areas, and since police presence is minimal in many beach towns, it is ripe for potential problems unless you stay near a resort where security is high. Still, if you go to places like El Tunco, it's very unlikely you will be affected by any of this, unless you are seeking drugs or acting like you have no sense..


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