Authorities and Youth Join Forces to Fight Violence in Guatemala

Authorities and Youth Join Forces to Fight Violence in Guatemala

By Dialogo
May 20, 2015





Guatemalan security authorities are using technology to make it easier for civilians to report crimes and contribute to the fight against violence: residents can now report crimes using an online and smartphone application called "Espantacacos" ("scare crook"), the result of an agreement signed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the non-governmental organization (NGO) Jóvenes contra la Violencia
(Youth Against Violence).

The service, located on the web at www.espantacacos.org
, launched nationwide on March 9; it was downloaded 2,500 times in its first month in operation, and it received 300 reports, Javier Toledo, a project official with Jóvenes contra la Violencia, told Diálogo.
The reports have come in from every department of Guatemala, including those furthest from the capital; one crime victim even filed a report from neighboring Mexico, using a smartphone, Toledo said. About 80 percent of them involved the theft of cell phones; the rest were for thefts of personal property, such as watches and wallets.

When the agreement was signed on April 6, Minister of Internal Affairs Mauricio López Bonilla emphasized that Guatemala needs people like the members of Jóvenes contra la Violencia, because they work for the good of the country.

“It is important that we Guatemalans become involved in the solutions, the new tools and mechanisms that will allow us as a society to confront the problems of violence, crime, and conflict in this country,” he said. “That is the value here. It is long, arduous, and historic work, because it is the first time something like this has happened, especially where the youth have shown a starting point with their optimism that will give hope to the people and raise citizen involvement in the solutions to this country’s problems.”

López Bonilla also invited people to use the app to report crimes.

How to file a report on ‘Espantacacos’


Using the app is easy. It allows anyone to report a crime just by logging on and specifying whether the act occurred in a walkway or street, at a traffic light, on a bus route or at a bus station. The app also gives the user the option of reporting what item was stolen, from a cell phone to a vehicle, and allows people to report other crimes, such as extortion, home burglaries, or kidnappings.

The person filing the report can specify whether the alleged crime was committed by a man, woman, or a group; whether the suspect used a weapon, and if so, what kind; and whether the alleged perpetrator used physical assault or threats against the victim. Additionally, the app user can type a summary of the alleged crime, the date and time of the incident, provide comments on how the event occurred, and attach files to the report, such as photos or videos.

Community groups help fight crime


Jóvenes contra la Violencia was started in 2009, when various youth groups – including Paz Joven
(Youth for Peace), Movimiento Cívico Nacional
(National Civic Movement) and Jóvenes contra la Violencia – joined together to help fight crime.

These groups worked in cooperation to develop a strategy to enable people to express how crime was impacting their lives. They developed community activities such as “90 minutes against violence” and “Discussions against violence” in neighborhoods where residents united to fight high rates of crime.

The agreement signed in April states that the Ministry of Internal Affairs shall provide technical and operational advice to Jóvenes contra la Violencia to help the project work effectively. The group will have access to National Civil Police stations and chiefs, who must respond to reports received through “Espantacacos” in the prevention, operation, and investigation of reported crimes.

Jóvenes contra la Violencia, meanwhile, is responsible for ensuring efficient implementation of the app and website. In addition, the group will raise awareness and encourage citizen participation to promote crime reporting. While Jóvenes contra la Violencia owns the app, app server, domain, and website, the organization must provide the information generated to the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Using technology to fight crime


Technology is an important component of the group's anti-crime strategy; in 2012, the organization launched its first app to report crimes using some smartphone models and a website.

“I think that the app was ahead of its time, because people then were not used to using apps in Guatemala,” Toledo said. Nevertheless, the group received more than 500 reports and had more than 600 downloads of the app in 2012. In 2013 and 2014, the organization worked to improve the app, which was relaunched on March 9.

The organization has also used low-tech tactics. For example, in 2012, the group placed in high-crime neighborhoods dummies dressed as police officers, bearing anti-crime placards such as "Stop the robberies!"




Guatemalan security authorities are using technology to make it easier for civilians to report crimes and contribute to the fight against violence: residents can now report crimes using an online and smartphone application called "Espantacacos" ("scare crook"), the result of an agreement signed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the non-governmental organization (NGO) Jóvenes contra la Violencia
(Youth Against Violence).

The service, located on the web at www.espantacacos.org
, launched nationwide on March 9; it was downloaded 2,500 times in its first month in operation, and it received 300 reports, Javier Toledo, a project official with Jóvenes contra la Violencia, told Diálogo.
The reports have come in from every department of Guatemala, including those furthest from the capital; one crime victim even filed a report from neighboring Mexico, using a smartphone, Toledo said. About 80 percent of them involved the theft of cell phones; the rest were for thefts of personal property, such as watches and wallets.

When the agreement was signed on April 6, Minister of Internal Affairs Mauricio López Bonilla emphasized that Guatemala needs people like the members of Jóvenes contra la Violencia, because they work for the good of the country.

“It is important that we Guatemalans become involved in the solutions, the new tools and mechanisms that will allow us as a society to confront the problems of violence, crime, and conflict in this country,” he said. “That is the value here. It is long, arduous, and historic work, because it is the first time something like this has happened, especially where the youth have shown a starting point with their optimism that will give hope to the people and raise citizen involvement in the solutions to this country’s problems.”

López Bonilla also invited people to use the app to report crimes.

How to file a report on ‘Espantacacos’


Using the app is easy. It allows anyone to report a crime just by logging on and specifying whether the act occurred in a walkway or street, at a traffic light, on a bus route or at a bus station. The app also gives the user the option of reporting what item was stolen, from a cell phone to a vehicle, and allows people to report other crimes, such as extortion, home burglaries, or kidnappings.

The person filing the report can specify whether the alleged crime was committed by a man, woman, or a group; whether the suspect used a weapon, and if so, what kind; and whether the alleged perpetrator used physical assault or threats against the victim. Additionally, the app user can type a summary of the alleged crime, the date and time of the incident, provide comments on how the event occurred, and attach files to the report, such as photos or videos.

Community groups help fight crime


Jóvenes contra la Violencia was started in 2009, when various youth groups – including Paz Joven
(Youth for Peace), Movimiento Cívico Nacional
(National Civic Movement) and Jóvenes contra la Violencia – joined together to help fight crime.

These groups worked in cooperation to develop a strategy to enable people to express how crime was impacting their lives. They developed community activities such as “90 minutes against violence” and “Discussions against violence” in neighborhoods where residents united to fight high rates of crime.

The agreement signed in April states that the Ministry of Internal Affairs shall provide technical and operational advice to Jóvenes contra la Violencia to help the project work effectively. The group will have access to National Civil Police stations and chiefs, who must respond to reports received through “Espantacacos” in the prevention, operation, and investigation of reported crimes.

Jóvenes contra la Violencia, meanwhile, is responsible for ensuring efficient implementation of the app and website. In addition, the group will raise awareness and encourage citizen participation to promote crime reporting. While Jóvenes contra la Violencia owns the app, app server, domain, and website, the organization must provide the information generated to the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Using technology to fight crime


Technology is an important component of the group's anti-crime strategy; in 2012, the organization launched its first app to report crimes using some smartphone models and a website.

“I think that the app was ahead of its time, because people then were not used to using apps in Guatemala,” Toledo said. Nevertheless, the group received more than 500 reports and had more than 600 downloads of the app in 2012. In 2013 and 2014, the organization worked to improve the app, which was relaunched on March 9.

The organization has also used low-tech tactics. For example, in 2012, the group placed in high-crime neighborhoods dummies dressed as police officers, bearing anti-crime placards such as "Stop the robberies!"
This is how brotherhood and solidarity are made present by those who give all of themselves, for the good of those desperately in need. May God always give them that driven spirit. Blessings. It's good to help each other. Today for you, tomorrow for me.
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