Most Chileans fear being a victim of crime

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Doris Quintana was driving a school bus when she saw four armed individuals assaulting a woman. She got scared and tried to run but was unable to secure the driver’s door and she and a 10-year-old girl were victims of an armed robber.

“I tried to put the insurance and the type [hombre] He opened the door for me and went inside, he took my keys, my documents [con el dinero] and stole the girl’s backpack,” she told Associated Press. He asked the thief not to take the car keys, but he “pointed the gun to my head.”

Quintana, like most Chileans, lives in fear of being a victim of crime in a country where insecurity is the greatest since 1990, which has led people to lock themselves behind bars to feel safer and many change some behaviors to protect yourself.

Chile became the country most concerned about violence in the world, according to a study carried out in 29 nations by the international pollster IPSOS, with 64% mentions. The November survey revealed that the country far exceeded the global average of 26%.

Experts and authorities agree that, compared to previous years, the level of violence with which crimes are committed has increased in Chile, in which weapons are increasingly present.

The Undersecretary for Crime Prevention, Eduardo Vergara, said in the middle of the year that the country “is experiencing the worst year in security, at least since the return to democracy (in 1990)”, while the Undersecretary of the Interior, Manuel Monsalve, He specified that in 2019 43% of crimes were committed with firearms, a figure that this year rose to 60%.

Official data indicates that in the South American country there are some 765,000 registered firearms and, according to estimates from the Small Arms Survey project of the Higher Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland, in 2018 there were some 2.2 million weapons in total between illegal and registered.

President Gabriel Boric attended the last week of December at the destruction of 17,590 weapons in a steel mill. Most of them had been confiscated in police operations or turned in voluntarily by the public.

According to official statistics from the Center for the Study and Analysis of Crime (CEAD), during this year 354,683 major crimes have been registered – homicides, rapes and robberies with violence. Between 2020 and 2021, crime fell as the country lived for long months under strict lockdowns imposed to slow the spread of COVID-19.

One of the crimes that increased the most in 2022 was homicide, with 564 up to September, which represents 55% more than in 2021. Another crime on the rise is kidnapping: up to September 70 had been reported, the same number as in all 2021.

Violent car thefts on streets and highways and the theft of vehicles at the entrance to homes also increased.

The increase in the perception of insecurity is influenced by an objective factor such as “the real increase in violent crimes, especially homicide” and another subjective one driven by “greater exposure to images of violent events,” he told PA Jorge Araya, security expert from the University of Santiago.

Sociologist Alejandra Mohor, a researcher at the Center for Citizen Security Studies at the University of Chile, questioned the coverage of crimes by the media. “When this event is repeated” on television over and over again, “we convert particular realities… (and) we put it on a plane of occurrence that exceeds what it really is”, so there is a discrepancy between the levels of insecurity and fear.

“I get up and go to bed thinking about how to improve the security of our homeland,” Boric said when announcing that he had sent four bills to Congress to increase penalties or modify laws on extortion, carrying weapons, kidnapping and contract killings.

In Chile, hitmen are a new crime that, like kidnappings, are related to drug trafficking.

Professor Araya pointed out that the greater violence in the commission of crimes responds to the fact that Chilean organized crime “has become more sophisticated, has become more powerful and can acquire more weapons.” It was also strengthened “by the entry of migrants who are linked to organized crime gangs,” he added.

For Patricia González, the fear became reality when one morning in early December she saw through a telephone application how individuals ransacked her shop for the repair and sale of motorcycle items. While she called the police from her alarm system, the group stole the equivalent of $11,500. She did not have insurance.

In this regard, Leopoldo Briceño, president of the insurance brokers union, declared that this year insurance increased an average of 50% and that thefts grew by 60% compared to 2021.

Fear has led many people to change their behavior: 71% stopped going out at certain times, 59% reinforced security in their homes, and 75% have stopped going to certain places. In addition, 32% of homes were victims of robbery or an attempted robbery in the last six months.

Many housing complexes closed their accesses with bars for security.

The government hopes that a national security agreement will be finalized before the end of the month, which it is discussing with the right-wing opposition. Boric, whose security budget for 2023 increased by 4%, has said that public spaces that are in the hands of crime must be recovered.

The Minister of the Interior, Carolina Tohá, who aspired to finalize the security agreement at the end of December, explained that the transversal pact seeks to build a document with the legislative priorities and bills that will be debated in Congress during the next year.

But Parliament will interrupt its work throughout February for holidays, so the processing of these projects will have to wait.

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Written by Editor TLN

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