Security ministry says country is safer than a year ago

The security ministry insisted Tuesday that the country was safer and cited two recent surveys to support that point of view.

Meanwhile, the president’s anti-crime panel urged tighter gun laws and legislation to allow the use of electronic bracelets for criminals and suspects. The panel also said that policies that prevent crime and treatment for drug users should be reinforced.

The Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública issued its statement apparently in response to articles about the crime rate in Spanish-language newspapers.

The ministry said that in January and February there were 186 fewer robberies reported when compared to the same period in 2011. In addition there were 16 less murders, it said. In both cases the ministry did not give the totals.

The ministry also cited a survey taken by the polling firm UNIMER that said the number of Costa Ricans who reported being crime victims had dropped from 17 percent to 11 percent. The survey had been commissioned by La Nación, the daily newspaper, and involved polling done in July.

This is the lowest rate of victimization since 2004, said the ministry.

A survey reported this month by the Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas y Censos said that 41 percent
of Costa Ricans believe that insecurity is the country’s main problem, noted the ministry. That percent is down from 49 percent from a previous survey, it said.

The ministry also emphasized figures from the Poder Judicial that said the robbery rate was 99 for every 10,000 persons in 2009 and that the rate dropped in 2010 to 92.6 persons per 10,000.

The crime rate is a politically sensitive topic because President Laura Chinchilla ran on a platform of standing up to crime. One of her creations was the Comité Consultivo de la Politica Intergral de Seguridad Ciudadana y Paz Social. This was a committee that was set up 18 months ago to develop strategy. The committee issued a report Tuesday in which it basically supported concepts that the president already had put forth.

The committee urged intervention in at-risk communities and coordination in the control of major crimes. The committee noted, too, that crime and victimization indicators had dropped. It’s suggestions are for the next two years.

The idea of saving prison space by having suspects and convicted criminals remain at large with an electronic bracelet already has been suggested.

To put this plan into effect requires legislation.

The committee also urged what it called restorative justice as a mechanism for reducing criminality and violence, This goes along with the president’s plan to try to reintegrate criminals back into society.

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