Public surveys commissioned by La Nacion and performed by UNIMER, as well as crime statistics compiled by the Ministry of Public Safety (MSP in Spanish), indicate that security has increased in Costa Rica in the last few years.
Although President Laura Chinchilla’s approval rate has plunged to the lowest levels in Latin America – a sad fact she shares with her Brazilian counterpart, President Dilma Rousseff- the current public opinion regarding crime and the statistics presented by the MSP show that the security efforts by the current administration have paid off.
President Chinchilla recently went on national television to highlight her administration’s work in improving public safety in Costa Rica. This has been one of the few high points of her mandate –another one is a national child care network for working-class families, which is incidentally very similar to a government initiative in Brazil. One of the first things Ticos, the people of Costa Rica, noticed when President Chinchilla took office was the number of Fuerza Publica (the national police force) officers that were deployed in the streets of Downtown San Jose, in busy bus terminals, crowded public spaces, and schools across the country. The visibility of these officers, who often walk the beat in pairs, contributed to an immediate reduction of crimes committed in flagrante delicto –common street crimes such as retail drug dealing, purse snatching, harassment, assaults, and others.
Positive Crime Figures in Costa Rica
Law-abiding Ticos love to see Fuerza Publica cops walking the beat, and they have also noticed the number of women joining the force; in fact, this was one of the highlights of President Chinchilla’s recent message to the people of Costa Rica. At the beginning of her term, analysts and observers in Costa Rica wondered home much this increased police presence will cost, and they had every reason to be worried: The national deficit has increased considerably, and the country has gotten in debt for the purpose of funding national security effort.
In a recent interview with Diario Extra, MSP Minister Mario Zamora explained that the murder rate in Costa Rica has decreased to 8.9 from 11.5 per 100,000 people, which means that there are 150 less murders per year compared to 2010. Another figure he highlighted is the fact that more than 80 percent of Fuerza Publica officers patrolling on foot earn more than 400,000 colones per month (about $800), a sharp improvement from nearly three years ago. All officers, including those who belong to special units such as the Tourism Police, have access to Kevlar gear and service weapons.
The National Coast Guard Service has also experienced strengthening during this administration, and there is a revival of old-fashioned police work tactics that seem to have a great effect in the 21st century, and they are even helping to disrupt Mexican drug cartels. Activities such as walking the beat and reaching out to the community with charitable work are fostering good relations between Ticos, Fuerza Publica and other police units.