Peru enacts citizen’s arrest law

President Alan García enacted a citizen’s arrest law to help curb the snatch-and-grab crimes prevalent in Peru’s cities, daily Peru21 reported Tuesday.

The law, which makes it legal for anyone – except municipal constables – to detain and immediately turn over to police anyone in the act of committing a flagrant crime in public, is expected to go into effect as of July 1, 2009.

According to the government, the law is designed to promote active citizen participation in protecting public safety. But critics contend it amounts to a legal nod for vigilantism. Law enforcement is divided in Peru between the National Police and constables, who are armed only with batons and whistles and work under the jurisdiction of individual municipal districts.

Granting such powers to citizens but not to municipal constables is a step in the wrong direction, said Enrique Ocrospoma, the mayor of Jesús María, a district in Peru’s capital, Lima.

“Such a law would be a serious step back in the fight against that lack of security,” said Ocrospoma,“especially since local governments and National Police are now working in close coordination.”

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