In a move that was lauded by all involved as a positive step toward more efficiently confronting Costa Rica’s escalating crime problem, Public Security Minister Fernando Berrocal has signed into effect a strategic alliance between National Police and private security firms.
During a Sept. 27 ceremony, held in the auditorium of the Supreme Elections Tribunal (TSE) in downtown San José, Berrocal emphasized that the accord does not grant private security companies any powers that constitutionally belong to police only, such as the right to search individuals or vehicles.
When the agreement was first announced in July, legislators from the Citizen Action Party (PAC) questioned how much power the private security officers would receive and which companies would be involved in the agreement, alleging many private security companies do not properly train, equip or insure their employees.
Legislators also eyed the agreement suspiciously because of ties between Berrocal and other top Public Security Ministry officials and private security firms. Berrocal, however, denied any conflict of interest because all officials renounced any positions they had with private companies before taking jobs with the ministry (TT, July 28).
The agreement was signed by the Public Security Ministry, the Costa Rican Association of Private Related Companies (ACES), the National Association of Security Companies and Similar Companies (ANESA), the Costa Rica Chamber of Banks and Financial Institutions, the Banking Association and the Chamber of Industries.
By joining forces with ACES and ANESA, the Public Security Ministry forges an alliance with 27 affiliated private security companies, comprising 16,000 security guards and 250 vehicles.
The banking associations involved also have 1,200 guards and 150 vehicles from their private security companies, while 10 major food distribution companies –including Coca Cola Costa Rica, British American Tobacco and Bimbo – have 4,000 security agents and 2,000 vehicles.
Berrocal said these private security guards will help be the eyes and ears of the police.