Costa Rican Police Work with Community to Prevent Crime

Costa Rican Police Work with Community to Prevent Crime

By Dialogo
August 31, 2015

I think exploiting these subjects that comprise our national identity especially with the armed forces of all of South America and especially ARGENTINA where action and control are needed in areas where only the armed forces know how to do it because of their experience especially praying for all of them and doing vigils. God give them the discernment to do what is right for everyone and all human beings. Man does not live by bread alone, also by the word of GOD

Costa Rica’s Ministry of Public Security is building a new police compound for 195 officers who will work in a program to prevent violence and promote social inclusion as part of a national initiative against violent crime.

“The fundamental goal of having new police command stations and police officers is to try to reduce the crime rate among at-risk youth in areas under the project’s influence, to try to prevent crime, and to decrease violent criminal activities, such as drug use, theft, smuggling of illegal medications, and human trafficking,” Vice Minister of Security Bernardita Marín Salazar told Diálogo

To “decrease the crime rate and increase the residents’ perception of security," the compound will be equipped with 165 male and 30 female officers who will intensively promote crime prevention. The first of 11 planned compounds, it will be built in Liberia with an investment of about $2 million; it will cover more than 1,400 square meters, with detention cells, green areas, parking, office space, and a kitchen.

The other 10 police stations will be built in the areas of Alajuela and Palmares in the province of Alajuela; Carrandí in Limón; Puntarenas, Esparza, and Parrita in Puntarenas; Guararí and Sarapiquí in Heredia; Pérez Zeledón in San José; and Santa Cruz in Guanacaste. They're being funded by a $132 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank to support Costa Rica’s strategy to prevent crime and violence.

Prevention and enforcement

“The new police corps in the new units have more training in prevention and a higher level of education,” said Daniel Matúl Romero, a security analyst at the University of Costa Rica.

Vice Minister Marín elaborated on their training. “Our police have a program aimed specifically at preventing drug abuse, and there is an excellent interrelationship among Public Security, the Drug Institute, the Ministry of Peace, and the Ministry of Public Education to jointly and comprehensively address the the drug problem among our youth as effectively as possible.”

Criminal groups sometimes turn young people into drug addicts and force them to sell narcotics, according to the country's Judicial Investigation Department (OIJ, for its Spanish acronym). However, Costa Rican gangs typically sell drugs locally and don’t engage in international trafficking.

While the anti-crime strategy focuses on prevention, it does not preclude enforcement operations by police.

“There are situations where reactions are required in the more complicated zones, where enforcement measures are actually needed.” Matú explained.

Security plan

The new facilities will help security forces implement their broad security strategy initiative, known as Plan Cuadrante, which is part of the Integrated System for Strategic Police Improvements (SIMEP) that was also launched in December 2012. SIMEP is based on a model adopted by New York City in 1995, which led to a substantial reduction of crime in that city.

Under this plan, police department assigns officers to specific quadrants to work with the community to prevent crime and conduct investigations. Police also use the R2Police technological tool, which collects statistics and drafts maps of crimes and unsafe areas in many communities; and finally, Plan Cuadrante calls for police to be transparent in their actions and accountable to the community.

“Plan Cuadrante will lead to valuable, close relationships between the police force and citizens,” Vice Minister Marín said. “Officers will know the exact crime situation in their communities and will be able to prevent crimes and take action immediately. This is a powerful strategy against crime.”

The plan will help police combat organized crime groups who recruit young people to be small-time drug dealers, according to the report “Drug Trafficking and Organized Crime Threats in Costa Rica,” published by the country's Judicial Investigation Department (OIJ).

Police fight violence, crime

Police officials believe Plan Caudrante will help them lower the rate of violence in Costa Rica, where officials recorded 453 homicides in 2014 - a rate of 9.5 killings per 100,000 residents, an increase from the 8.6 killings per 100,000 residents in 2013.

During the first three months of 2015, Costa Rica's police recorded 3,054 assault reports, compared to 3,503 in 2014.

The decrease in assaults is “the result of the continual operation conducted by the police forces on the streets of Costa Rica,” Police Force Director Juan José Andrade said.