The radio station La Voz del Tomebamba has sent letters to police and Cuenca city officials in an effort to have a mentally ill man who has attacked dozens of women detained. “For several years, he has hit women on the sidewalk with his fists, sticks or other objects but the police refuse to arrest him because they say he is a mental health problem, not a criminal,” according to morning talk show host Fredy Saguay.
The radio station has asked its audience to join their effort to pressure officials to take the attacker into custody since he poses a continuing threat to women.
According to the station and call-ins from listeners, the man, described to be in his late 30s or 40s, has recently been seen on Av. 12 de Abril, near the University of Cuenca, and on Av. Solano. He also frequents Otorongo Plaza and El Centro, near Parque Calderon.
Two Tuesday callers to the station reported that the man recently attacked a woman with a syringe. “It is outrageous that this continues to happen when the police are aware of it,” said one caller. “What will it take to get this man off the street and to a place where he can receive help? Do we need a dead woman for that to happen?”
A psychiatrist who called the station said that there is “legal vacuum” that makes detaining mentally ill individuals and keeping them out of public areas difficult. “Ecuador does not have a good mechanism to deal with these kinds of cases, relying instead on families to deal with them. Unfortunately, this man has no family members who want to get involved and the result is serious public safety issue.”