In raids conducted this week against 96 private security posts, Costa Rican SWAT teams confiscated 54 illegal firearms.
Judicial Investigation Police Director Jorge Rojas showed video of the confiscated arms, which included Tec-9 assault pistols, 9mm handguns, .22-calber handguns, .38-caliber handguns and a 12-gauge shotgun, during a press conference Wednesday. Five undocumented Nicaraguans were also arrested during the raids, he said.
“There is complete chaos, a complete lack of firearms control in this country,” Rojas said. “Many people have weapons without permits and it’s alarming the ease with which foreigners are arming this country.”
Rojas put the blame on legal and illegal private security firms, saying they hire guards with criminal records. He also blamed “defective control” by the government.
“We realized how bad things were after conducting these raids,” he said. “We have armed minors guarding businesses. The weapons, the majority of them, are coming through the private security firms. And then the weapons go easily into the hands of criminals who assault and rob security guards. And we have three weapons inspectors for the whole country.”
Rojas said it was not illegal for a security firm to hire someone with a criminal background.
But he said they could be cited by the Public Security Ministry and given an administrative sanction.
Ministry spokesman Jesus Ureña said sanctions could include temporary suspensions or outright cancellations of a firm’s right to do business.
Officials declined to name any of the private security firms that were raided but they said they included 15 large, well-known companies.
“There are 54 security firms, and 15 large, well-known ones, that are responsible for this (the illegal weapons),” he said.
“Private security needs to overhaul itself completely. Let’s see if the companies get shut down. That would be best.”
Few security firms contacted by The Tico Times acknowledged being targets of the operation. Only one company — 6GS Security – said one of its guards had his weapon confiscated by the police during the operation.
“We had one case, one man whose papers were in and waiting for a renewal,” said Jorge Sedo, 6GS’s human resources director.
Sedo blamed the government in the case for being so slow to approve the guard’s renewal application.
“The reality is it’s a thorny process that takes a lot of time and money,” he said.
A permit to carry firearms is only good for two years and then has to be renewed, officials said.