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By Salvador Dominguez and Jerry Jones
After an outcry on social media over police extortion of nationals and tourists, Puerto Vallarta Police officials are urging those affected to report any LGBTQ+ harassment, including police insisting on being given money. Additionally, police said they were meeting with some local LGBTQ+ leaders to discuss the situation.
It’s not a new issue in Puerto Vallarta and has been reported on before. In November 2018, O&APV reported on a community meeting that was held to address similar concerns. That meeting was held at the request of the Colectivo Vallarta LGBT Group, with specific concerns of an increase in LGBT couples’ harassment and police extortion.
But new leadership may help change previous police practices
In October 2021 a new government took control in Puerto Vallarta. O&APV reached out to Profe Luis Michel’s office (Michel is the Presidente Municipal de Puerto Vallarta) and spoke to Police Commissioner Luis Fernando Muñoz Ortega, Director of Citizen Security, Policia Municipal Puerto Vallarta. Commissioner Muñoz was appointed as the new police commissioner in Oct. 2021.
Muñoz is retired from the Army, infantry and former director of the police academy of the municipality of Juarez, Nuevo León, serving there from August 24, 2018 to August 18, 2020.
The police commissioner said that officials had not had any recent registered complaints, and needed those affected by such acts to file a complaint so that an investigation could take place.
Nationals or foregin tourists are urged to make this report in person at the Security Police Station, on their website, or through a QR code that was created for this type of situation. The QR code opens up a chat on WhatsApp to report the cases. The WhatsApp account is labeled, Comisaría de Seguridad Ciudadana Puerto Vallarta Jalisco, and you are urged to add it to your contact list in case it’s needed.
Complaint Line Established
The Anonymous Complaint Line via WhatsApp was established in late October by the Directorate of Citizen Security and Municipal Road of Puerto Vallarta, in order that Vallartens residents report criminal behavior (including police extortion) and request advice if they have been victims of insecurity or abuse. The calls should be to the number 322 242 69 82 or scan the QR code that comes attached to the advertisement photograph.
This new tool is part of the update of services provided, to reach out to other sectors and encourage the population to report. It is answered in English or Spanish. Emergency calls should be directed to 911 and you can also make anonymous reporting to number 089 of the Prosecutor’s Office from the State, so that there can be a record and a folio of the reported action can be assigned.
Commissioner Muñoz said that the actions carried out when a robbery involves a member of the police is to channel those complaints to internal affairs through the Honor and Justice Commission.
“On the part of the Vallarta Police, we are not allowing any type of abuse of this nature, unfortunately the foreign tourist who has been affected does not report it, probably out of fear, ” he said. “They then return to their place of origin and from there he makes it public in social media. In those cases it does not allow us to have a basis or complaint from those affected to be able to open an investigation.”
He went on to explain that although complaints by social networks are taken into account, he recommends that people provide in their official complaint some information for police to take action on – such as which police unit it is or their plates or characteristics of the police elements that are extorting them, so that they can follow up with concrete elements, track down those involved and take action.
Cases Reported Are Similar
The cases reported on social media all have a similar theme – they were intercepted by Vallarta police patrols asking them what they were doing at that time on the street, and then began to inspect them wanting to verify if they were carrying drugs or were intoxicated. After finding nothing from them, they demand a certain amount of money or else they will arrest them, using their authority to extort tourists.
In some other cases reported, the individuals said they explained that they were not carrying cash and then the police put them on the police vehicle and would take them to the place where they are staying and remove the credit cards from the safe box and then take them to ATMs and withdraw the money they were asking for.
O&APV talked to some of the victims that posted on Facebook in the group “Puerto Vallarta Gays: Everything Gay You Need or Want To Know.”
Josh Knox, who is one of the moderators of the group, and who runs a local business, posted this past summer that the administrators of the group have gathered a collection of photos of the police officers working in Zona Romantica, and had hope to work with victims and city officials to try and help identify the officers that interacted with them.
“This is a real problem,” he said. “I have lived in Mexico for four years, two years here, and I have been stopped three times myself. I really suggest that you Uber or taxi home, or walk in large groups on the main road, and keep your wits about you.”
Puerto Vallarta resident Luiz Neto said he was harassed and had money taken from him by two officers who are with the Policías Municipals on Monday, Nov. 22 around 2 a.m. as he and a friend were walking home.
“We were going back to the apartment,” he said. “It was just in the street of the bars going up in front of the OXXO. There were two policemen, a dark woman, and a white man. They stopped us and asked us what we were doing, where we were from and then they searched us. They didn’t find anything but said we had to pay them to be let go,” Neto said.
His friend ended up paying $4,000 pesos to end the ordeal. Neto said the female officer was the same that he’d seen posted by Jason Scheffler, who had the same experience.
Jason Scheffler said his partner Juan had a very similar experience while leaving Paco’s Ranch around 1 a.m. on Nov. 18. Juan had left the bar slightly earlier than Jason and was headed back to Alamar Resort to go to bed.
“I left a few minutes later and was on the phone with him and he had stopped near Daiquiri Dicks to wait for me to catch up. While on the phone, a female police officer approached him and accused him of urinating in public. He denied it and their discussion continued as I walked up. When I arrived, she called for backup and two men (one called David) arrived in a white police pickup truck. They continued to claim he had urinated in public and said they had proof on cameras.
Of course, they would never show us the locations of the cameras or footage.
Jason said that Juan, who is a dual Mexican/American citizen, and speaks Spanish, told them numerous times to take him to the police station.
“They wouldn’t. They just wanted money. He also asked many times how much money they wanted, because he knew that’s all they wanted but they denied that was the case,” Jason said. “Eventually after about 15 minutes they took about 200 pesos from Juan (all the cash in his wallet) and left.”
Jason said that the cops did want the couple to go to an ATM to withdraw money, but neither had an ATM card on them. And Scheffer said he didn’t have any money in his wallet.
“It’s sad this is happening, and no one seems to care,” he said. “What is worse is many want to say the victims bring this upon themselves which is such a wrong stance to have.”
Jason said they reported the incident to the front desk at Alamar, because they didn’t know who else to report it to.
“If the police are the ones doing this, why would they want to help us or change the behavior,” he said. “So, we just didn’t know where to turn.”
Alejandro Gómez Alex shared his story, which began around 3 p.m. on August 26, 2020.
Alejandro said he had arrived early in the morning, and could not yet check into his hotel room, so he decided to have breakfast and walk the beach.
“I was near the steps of Playa Los Muertos and a guard from some nearby condominiums came up and wanted to check my backpack. I refused and the guard called the police,” he explained. “When the police arrived, they took me to the patrol truck and told me to show the contents of my backpack to see if there were drugs. Of course, they didn’t find anything but they threatened to arrest me and take me in if I did not give them money. I gave them $500 pesos. It was very sad and annoying to go through a situation like this.”
In addition to these three stories, we counted at least five more people who reported similar police interactions in the Facebook group.
Local activists have petitioned city officials to meet and open a dialogue about how to improve the current situation, and for a way for tourists to be able to report these cases in a quick and bilingual manner.
The recommendations made by the Vallarta Police Station when one of these events occurs is to immediately file a complaint, through the Police Station in person or on the website; the QR Code, or dial 911 or 089 – all these reports are anonymous and the most important thing is that they are made when the events occur and before leaving Vallarta. Be prepared to report the date, place and time of the event and, as far as possible, the name and characteristics that identify the police units or individuals involved.
O&APV suggests the following to try and avoid this type of altercation, to be alert and to know what to do in case of suffering them.
- Try to go out and have fun with friends or acquaintances
- If you travel alone, stay in streets and places where there is a constant flow of people.
- If you leave the bar or restaurant in the early morning, try to walk through illuminated and preferably mostly busy streets, if possible take a taxi or uber instead of walking.
- If you travel alone, try not to overdo your way of drinking alcohol or if you find yourself in poor condition, ask for help from the managers or the staff help you order a taxi before leaving it, even on the street you can ask for help, in PV there are always friendly people who will surely help you.
- If you are a victim of robbery or assault from the police (or anyone else), try to collect as much information as possible: type of vehicle, license plates, complexion of people, place and time.
- Save the number to make a police complaints on your cell phone or wallet: 322 242 6982
- Save the WhatsApp Complaint Line to your contacts to be able to report;
- And finally, the most important thing, make your complaint at the moment the events occur. So we will be helping each other so that this does not continue to happen, it is of little use just to publish it on social networks without a complaint to the Puerto Vallarta Commissioner.
To make complaints in person:
Camino Viejo al Canton 101 Col, Santo Domingo, 48280
+52-322-242-6982 (answered in English or Spanish)
City Government Website: