Security officials still seeking an effective anti-crime policy

Police officials and prosecutors met Friday in an effort to map out a way to fight crime.

Leading the session was Jorge Chavarría Gúzman, the fiscal general or chief prosecutor. He proposed forming a committee that would be called a national commission. It would include heads of police agencies as well as the head of the Judicial Investigating Organization. He also would be a member.

The head of the judicial police, Jorge Rojas, urged better communications among prosecutors, the Fuerza Pública and his agency.

Chavarría said he will outline a series of policies and strategies to tackle crimes

The session pointed out that there is conflict among the various police agencies and that the Fuerza Pública can be used to better advantage.

Under the Costa Rican system, the Fuerza Pública, the police officers in blue, are the first responders. They also have the role of preventing crime. That is why the central government believes that more police officers on the street will reduce crime.

Once a crime has been committed, the Judicial Investigating Organization takes over.

The judicial police seek to maintain a monopoly on investigation. The Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública supervises the Fuerza Pública. In 2003 the ministry created the Dirección de Investigaciones Especializadas that specialized in the sex trade, car thefts, copyright infringement and juvenile gangs.

The U.S. government supported the effort with a $250,000 grant, and the 40 members of the unit began making arrests. Some 46 individuals were detained between April
2003 and November 2005. Some were sex offenders who had been fugitives for years.

The activities proved to be an embarrassment to the judicial police, and Rojas moved to have the special unit downgraded. He was successful, getting the support of prosecutors.

Generally prosecutors feel that street police are not competent to provide investigations that will stand up in court. Considering the complexity of the Costa Rican judicial process, that may be a correct assessment.

Even before José María Tijerino Pacheco took over as security minister, there had been sweeps of the central business district. Street crime was reduced, but criminals sought out greener pastures for their activities.

President Laura Chinchilla ran successfully for office on a law-and-order platform, but there has been no new proposals coming from Casa Presidencial. A local United Nations agency was asked to sound out public opinion, but there has been no report on the findings. The president continues to seek higher taxes for more Fuerza Pública officers.

Meanwhile, security officials are conducting drug operations at the consumer level and against international transportation. The consumer level approach has resulted in the arrest of more than 100 individuals or groups that anti-drug police in the security ministry detained this year. The drug police are one of the few agencies in the ministry that do investigations.

The judicial police also have a series of drug units that also have been active.

Tijerino bemoans the decision by the Sala IV constitutional court that cut down on the number of police roadblocks. However, the ministry seems to have been able to circumvent the ruling. The minster said that roadblocks and searches of vehicles are crucial to crime fighting.

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