The vigilantes of the Camino: almost 3,600 Civil Guard and Police officers ensure the safety of pilgrims

An itinerant unit of the Civil Guard has been traveling the routes since 2021 to provide support to walkers

Santiago de Compostela, May 6. 2022 (europe press) –

Pilgrimage to Santiago today is far from the trips full of dangers that, as legends and ancient romances tell, lurked in the bends of the routes to the adventurers who embarked on the Camino.

The almost 3,600 law enforcement officers who are part of the special security device articulated for this double Xacobeo 21-22 are in charge of this throughout the eleven autonomous communities through which the 4,000 kilometers that add up the pilgrimage routes pass. to Compostela.

The operation, coordinated from the Secretary of State for Security of the Ministry of the Interior, has the participation of a large part of the different units that make up the Civil Guard, National and Autonomous Police forces. All under a double objective: to ensure the safety of people and protect the cultural and artistic heritage that make up the Caminos de Santiago.

Thus, the bodies share their spheres of action. While security in the cities and at the Camino’s goal, Santiago, corresponds to the National Police –with the support of the unit attached to the Autonomous Community–, the Civil Guard is in charge of the routes and population centers More smalls.

Although the crime rates on the Jacobean routes are “relatively low”, as the Secretary of State for Security, Rafael Pérez, acknowledged in the presentation of the operation a year ago; the security forces patrol trails and stretches of the routes, paying more attention to concentration zones at the end of the stage, especially in the last kilometers before Santiago.

This is the function of the four Mobile Pilgrim Assistance Offices (OMAP), created by the Civil Guard in 2021. These are itinerant units of the Armed Institute that travel through the Spanish provinces along the Jacobean routes and that, e their first year of operation, they carried out some 5,000 actions throughout 365 shifts of service.

In A Coruña, the destination province of the Way, this unit of the Civil Guard mainly attends to the area with the highest concentration of pilgrims: the last two and a half stages of the French Way, which run between Melide, Arzúa and O Pino before reaching the Galician capital .

“This is an itinerant service. We go to areas where it is expected that there may be overcrowding or to strategic points such as the end of the stage, where we offer our control service and help pilgrims with whatever they need, whether it is to file a complaint, carry out a management or even receive first aid,” explains agent Antonio Amor, a member of the Pilgrim Assistance Office who these days was deployed along the section between Arzúa and Melide.

Their work consists mainly of providing information to the pilgrim and bringing the Civil Guard services closer to the Camino itself so that the interruptions caused by the eventualities of the adventure do not take up much time. In these mobile offices, complaints can be filed for theft or theft, the most common criminal incidents among pilgrims along with the loss of documentation.

But their functions go beyond the tasks ordinarily associated with the forces of order, as reflected in the data provided to Europa Press by the Government Delegation. Of the 5,000 actions carried out in the 365 shifts carried out in the 2021 campaign, only 21 resulted in proceedings for infractions.

Thus, OMAP agents are mainly dedicated to providing information to pilgrims about services in the area, guiding them if they get lost and offering help if they are injured or have suffered a mechanical mishap.

“It is a direct service that we provide to citizens. We channel all these eventualities so that the pilgrim feels protected, especially those who go alone,” say agent Amor and his partner Andrés Souza next to the van that serves as the office of the OMAP, installed on the Ribadiso bridge –a few kilometers from Arzúa–, after greeting one of the pilgrims who made the route this week, former Minister of Defense José Bono.

All this work is carried out in collaboration and constant contact with the citizen security patrols of the zone posts, to which the most serious cases are derived after the “first direct attention” that they exercise from the itinerant units. .

‘alertcops’ app

The use of new technologies has been incorporated into the day-to-day life of law enforcement for years. For a year, the ‘Alertcops’ application, developed by the Ministry of the Interior, has had a specific tab for the Camino de Santiago.

Through this tool, anyone can report an event they have witnessed or simply ask for help in an emergency. The application gives the user the option to provide their geoposition, which facilitates their location.

This possibility, as Andrés Souza OMAP agents acknowledge, is very useful on the Camino de Santiago, given the difficulties that sometimes entail finding the whereabouts of pilgrims who ask for help, either due to ignorance of the area, problems giving helpful directions or the language barrier.

Collaboration with other forces

In an increasingly internationalized Way, facilitating communication with pilgrims from other countries is the main objective of the collaborations carried out by state law enforcement agencies with other bodies from countries such as France, Portugal or Italy.

After the stoppage forced by the pandemic, last summer the cooperation program between security forces returned, which each year brings members of the French Gendarmerie, the Portuguese Republican National Guard or the Italian Carabinieri to the communities through which the Camino passes. .

In 2021, there were 27 troops deployed on the Camino Frances, in which agents from Brazil, Germany and the United Kingdom were released.

The OMAP are part of the special deployment for the Camino del Insituto Armado in the eleven communities through which the routes pass. In total, there are 10,500 civil guards who, directly or indirectly, participate in the Jacobean Security Plan 2022.

Everything to make the Camino de Santiago a safe experience in which pilgrims, on foot, horse, bicycle or as they choose; just enjoy the ride.

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