Chinchilla Promises Clear and Measurable Public Safety Goals

May 14, 2010

Laura Chinchilla, Costa Rica’s newly inaugurated president, has given her administration 100 days to flesh out the details of one of her firmest campaign promises – a safer Costa Rica.

Shortly after assuming power, Chinchilla signed an executive decree calling for “integral intervention” to combat crime and established a citizen security advisory committee to guide the process.

The committee will take a “coherent and measurable” approach to crime prevention, which currently “doesn’t exist” in Costa Rica, according to the decree.

With representatives from the National Security Council, the Legislative Assembly’s Special Security Commission, and the judicial branch, the advisory group will consult those social sectors and neighborhood residents most affected by crime to develop strategies to boost crime fighting capacity, including organized crime.

The new team will also devise a proposal to lower the country’s rising homicide rate. The rate reached 11 homicides per 100,000 residents in 2008, which is slightly above the international average of 10 homicides per 100,000 people.

This planning, which according to the new security minister, José María Tijerino, will be “mostly desk work,” must be complete by August 16, the 100-day benchmark.

During his first week in office, Tijerino has demanded greater police presence in the streets, requiring officers to leave their stations to regularly patrol public areas.

But during an inspection in San José on Wednesday, Tijerino concluded that police have an unacceptably low profile in many neighborhoods. Noting that the current nearly 11,000-strong National Police force is too small to be fully effective, he said this is no excuse for a lack of physical presence.

“This beginning is totally unsatisfactory,” Tijerino told reporters on Wednesday after his inspection determined that police are not complying with his idea of what constitutes sufficient police presence.

“There were failures on every level,” Tijerino told the Spanish daily La Nación. “It is unacceptable. I want a rational, logical explanation as to why officials don’t leave their quarters.”

–Mike McDonald

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