Three men killed in Callao in a suspected hit killing, five alleged thieves shot dead by police in a chase in east Lima, and yet another explosive lobbed at a school in San Juan de Lurigancho as part of an extortion racket — all this past weekend — only helped to confirm the soaring perception of insecurity in Lima.
In a new Ipsos Peru poll, published in newspaper El Comercio, 90 percent of respondents said they feel unsafe on the city’s streets, up from 73 percent two months ago. The survey was held with 474 people in metropolitan Lima.
The poll found that 30% of Limeños have been the victim of crime in the past year, with almost 80% of those individuals being targeted on the street.
The release of the survey follows Congress’ approval late last week of a request from the government for special legislative powers to reduce crime and improve security.
Interior Minister Jose Luis Perez Guadalupe said the legislation his portfolio is writing up will allow the government to tackle an increase in contract killings and extortions that have become a major concern in certain areas of both Lima and regions such as Ancash and the north coast.
The Executive is also planning to write legislation on organized crime, which covers a broad spectrum from delinquency and armed robbery to oganized crime including extortion, hired gunmen, drug traffic, land and real estate trafficking, and the illegal timber trade.
Independent experts say that tougher police response and stiffer penalties alone won’t be enough to reduce crime, which requires the government to also focus on prevention.
“The modifications to the penal code don’t constitute prevention strategies to dissuade youth from starting a criminal life,” said lawyer Mario Amoretti.
“This isn’t going to be resolved only with laws,” added Roberto Miranda, also a lawyer. “But rather saving [youth] from marginalization.”
Economist and former Central Bank chairman, Richard Webb, in an op-ed on in El Comercio, said that widespread corruption in the judiciary, whose job is to guarantee justice, is also one of the causes of increased corruption, and of the growing fear that touches every level of society. This regress, despite many recent economic gains, should be included in the equation when assessing quality of life, Webb says.
Concerns about crime are expected to be one of the main campaign issues during next year’s presidential election.