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Costa Rica’s Police Force Overwhelmed Amid Rising Crime

Costa Rica finds itself facing a critical challenge in its law enforcement landscape, with the Minister of Security, Mario Zamora, sounding an urgent call for action.

Despite a decade of societal changes, the number of law enforcement officers in the country has remained virtually stagnant, leaving the police force ill-equipped to combat the rising wave of homicides.

Zamora, who has served as Minister of Security for nearly 11 years, expressed his concern, stating, “I was minister almost 11 years ago, and, curiously, we have almost the same number of troops as we had at that time.”

He attributes this situation to the profound social transformations Costa Rica has undergone during this period, which have left the police forces at a distinct disadvantage.

“Society has grown and has become more complex,” Zamora elaborates. “We face a more violent, more organized, more transnational criminality, and yet, unfortunately, the police force remains largely unchanged, with even fewer resources than before.”

Zamora openly acknowledges the shortage in the police force, which became apparent when he assumed office last May.

While he recognizes the dedication and effort of the current police force, he estimates that a substantial boost is urgently required, advocating for the addition of at least 1,000 new officers and 500 new patrols.

The Minister draws a stark analogy, likening the crime wave in Costa Rica to a cancer. He expresses his deep concern regarding the country’s situation. 

“We are at the moment when that cancer can metastasize further, or we can halt its spread through vigorous and aggressive interventions. It is a decision that the entire nation must make: either we allow the metastasis to continue unabated, or we confront the harsh reality head-on, with our Police Force leading the way.”

In recent weeks, the Ministry of Security has been increasingly vocal about the dire need for more resources for the police. An approved budget cut of ₡350 million, as well as shortages in police equipment such as boots and vests, has hampered their operations.

The ministry has shifted its strategy towards purchasing motorcycles instead of patrol cars, with the first 67 of 150 motorcycles recently delivered to enhance police mobility.

As the 2024 budget is under discussion by deputies, there is a 7.8% increase in the allocation for Public Security, totaling almost ₡295 billion.

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