“People would drink alcohol and do drugs all night long. Neighbours were sick of it. We used to go to support them, but we could not be there all the time. That is how the idea of buying security devices came up”
Why did you decide to become a policeman?
My father had a great dedication to service. I remember that he when he was a Physical Education teacher took a course for lifeguards. He became a voluntary lifeguard; I used to see him in action. When I graduated from the Police, the first course I took was for becoming a lifeguard. I am following my father’s example.
Nevertheless, the Police does not have such a good image. It is related to corruption.
I have always believed in the Police. I joined it in 1984, in the middle of terrorism; I was willing to serve despite all the vicissitudes.
I understand your stubbornness comes from home. Both of your parents were teachers, which is another underestimated profession.
Exactly, I like serving people! I always wanted to be a policeman due to my desire to serve and be useful to society.
A decade ago, in Salamanca’s police station, you had under your charge a nursery that was about to collapse.
Yes, we had capacity for six babies and believe it or not we had sixteen. We could not continue like that! There was not enough milk. We got the media’s attention, since a baby in need always attracts it. We resorted to that and we got help not only for breastfed babies but also for all the minors.
There were babies that had been abandoned in rubbish dumps.
Breastfed babies! They were abandoned in the rubbish, markets and on the streets.
And, one more time, your work broke the cold image the Police had.
All our effort was focused on providing that service. If we hadn’t, where could we have obtained the milk from? INABIF (National Institution for Family Welfare) was supporting us but their help was not enough. That is why we took advantage of the media’s interest. We asked for help and many people started contributing.
Achievements like that one counter the loss of prestige of your institution.
I am only complying with my job.
And you are not alone. You have found allies throughout your career.
Exactly. There are good staff members in the Police, like my staff in the Citizen Participation Office; they enjoy this job and support me.
“I am following my father’s example”
Zárate is located in one of the districts with more crimes. How did you find ideal staff members to carry out this work?
By chance, I assumed the command just when a pilot plan had begun in the district, which consisted in boosting police stations. Fifty policemen and four patrol cars were added to the station. They were new staff members to whom I could teach how to treat citizens, what means dedication to service and how to establish a trusting relationship with citizens.
You were teaching just like your parents did in classrooms.
Exactly! We started a training period with those staff members and obtained good results thanks to the presentation cards and our good assistance to citizens. However, everything would have fallen apart, if we had not answered to the neighbourhoods’ needs; we did not let them down. After this successful experience, other neighbourhood councils wanted to follow the example. That means the work is being carried out.
Principally, everything is going alright because you kept your word.
Yes. First, we had to establish a trusting relationship, prove people that we were doing our job; then, we had to encourage them to buy security devices. For example, in Campoy, we thought about what they could do to obtain resources on their own. As there were many people working in restaurants and markets, we came up with the idea of organising “Misturitas” (smaller version of the Mistura Food Festival). Every Sunday, the police station arranged a sunshade on the park, and neighbours took their dishes there. That is how they generated resources. And now they have fences and cameras.
But people could say that that is not the work of a police station.
Yes, however, in the areas we intervened like that, the number of crimes decreased almost to zero. We have recovered those places, and now we can focus in other sectors.
You have empowered people so they can defend their neighbourhood.
Now, they are well-empowered. They help each other, they have whistles, alarms, security devices that help them, but, anyway, the best support is the police. We advise neighbours to be careful, because there are racketeers in this area. They analyse the situation and, if they cannot control it by themselves, they call us and we arrive immediately.
“Everything would have fallen apart, if we had not answered to the neighbourhoods’ needs; we did not let them down”
These achievements led you to participate in “My Police Station, My Pride” contest.
Of course, because the contest was oriented to strategies and innovative ideas. That was what it encouraged me! The judges came, visited the neighbourhood councils and we became one of the nine finalists. I got very surprised when I realized we were the only police station from Lima. We won the second place.
How has your community responded?
Well, they are very happy. A week later, we gave another alarm to the neighbourhood council of the Micaela Bastidas Park. And talking about the prize, we made a ceremony with the network of volunteers⸺ that is how we call the groups of security guards, which, in that case, were formal tuk tuk drivers. They asked us for our support to eliminate informal drivers and we asked them to help us identify the areas where people get stolen more frequently or where drugs are sold… We have put a sticker on the tuk tuks and we gave them our presentation cards so they can call us. We support each other.
And now there are more allies.
Yes. In that ceremony, we also recognised the work of the neighbourhood council.
When you told your parents that you wanted to be a policeman, terrorism has already started. What was their reaction?
One year before I joined the police, my father passed away, so he never knew about that. When I told my mother, she agreed with my decision. However, she thought I was not going to like the military formation, but I did like it from the very first day! I am proud of being a policeman.