First tourism police graduate in Costa Rica

Costa Rica, with more than 1.6 million foreign tourists a year, has created a police force specifically dedicated to protecting visitors. The first class of the Tourism Police graduated from the academy Wednesday evening, with 122 new officers receiving diplomas.

The new cops were instructed in criminal analysis, detection of forgery, map-reading, history, interpersonal communications and the broad array of attractions offered by this Central American nation’s environmentally conscious tourist industry. They also all received six months of intensive instruction in English.

President Oscar Arias attended the graduation ceremony.

“Investment in tourism is important and the security provided to tourists is vital to generating confidence,” he told the new officers. “Development depends of confidence, confidence in our rule of law, political and economic stability and our security.”

The new force will have two main offices, one near Daniel Oduber International Airport and the other in Playa Panama, and the officers will be spread out among the country’s principal attractions.

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Security Minister Fernando Berrocal said another 120 officers for the force would graduate by the middle of 2007.

Tourism is Costa Rica’s main earner of hard currency, bringing in more than $1.6 billion annually.
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