President Oscar Arias acknowledged this week that the overwhelming sense of insecurity that is spreading across the country is not just perception.
The country’s highest powers met Thursday evening at Casa Presidencial to discuss methods for stemming the recent rash of crime, which has seen Ticos turn to barbed- and concertina-wire fencing, cement walls and shotgun-toting armed guards at unprecedented rates. The highly publicized meeting, held behind closed doors, was still going on at
The Tico Time’s press time. Officials in attendance, including Judicial Investigation Police director Jorge Rojas, Presidency Minister Rodrigo Arias, Vice President Laura Chinchilla, Security Minister Fernando Berrocal, as well as Attorney General Francisco Dall’Anese, were expected to discuss urgent solutions, including the formation of a priority commission on crime and a major hike in the number of police officers countrywide.
Security Minister Berrocal this week urged legislators to push for passage of five proposed laws intended to stiffen penalties for petty theft, give police more power to fight drug trafficking and organized crime and increase protection of victims and witnesses involved in public court cases.
“This must now become one of the government’s top priorities,” said Rodrigo Arias. According to the most recent State of the Nation report, released in November, the homicide rate jumped 50% since 1990, and violence doubled.
“On our part, we have increased the number of police on the street, but it hasn’t been enough,” said Arias. “Criminals continue to do whatever they want here, in plain view of the world.”
The crimes per 100,000 inhabitants between 1990 and 2006 jumped from 135 to 295, more than double, according to government statistics. Robberies increased 700%, and drug-related crimes 280%.