Business owners dig down in effort to end robberies

Leaders from a prominent Costa Rican business chamber and the security minister signed an agreement Wednesday to coordinate better protection for businesses in Costa Rica to reduce robberies and hijackings.

The Cámara de Industrias de Costa Rica agreed that its members would donate money for supplies and personnel. In return, the ministry will open up channels to pass relevant security information and communication to businesses.

Members of both groups said that a high rate of robberies is the most urgent security problem facing businesses.

Large businesses and manufacturers like the ones that the chamber represents particularly worry about their trucks being robbed while transporting products.

“What we want to say to the police is that we need the ability to successfully move our products securely throughout the country. Some of which are for the national market and others to be exported,” said the chamber president, Juan Ramón Rivera, in an interview.

Although crime is generally going down, according to the 2011 statistics report from Costa Rica’s judiciary, both sides seemed to address the issues of robberies with a sense of urgency.

In late September, a United Nations affiliated organization report said that Costa Rica had the highest rate of robberies of all countries in the Western Hemisphere in 2010. The report said that 43,000 robberies took place that year in Costa Rica.

However, the judicial report also released in September says that less than 20,000 crimes overall took place in 2010. Mario Zamora Cordero said in an interview after the conference that this is a result of using different statistics. He is the minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

Rivera said that there are two specific types of robberies that are of concern. The first type is when stores are robbed of their products while on the shelves. The second type is when products are stolen from stores and suppliers while in transit. To this end, Zamora said at a press conference that one of the primary goals of the agreement is to secure major thoroughfares through which most commercial vehicles travel.

Juan José Andrade, director general of the Fuerza Pública, said that he would like to see the money go towards more police, cars and especially more communication devices.

“The first decision that can be made to impact the strategy to improve security from the industrial sector is to invest in mobility and invest in communication,” said Andrade.

Money donated by members of the chamber will be controlled by a committee, Rivera said. This committee will ensure that the money goes towards appropriate security expenditures and provide a venue for police to communicate with businesses.

Zamora’s ministry is one agency that is benefiting from the financial bonanza generated by a new tax on corporations. The Ministerio de Hacienda said Tuesday that this tax already has raised 20 billion colons, about $40 million. No numbers were given Wednesday, but the donations from industry probably would be a lot less than this.

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