Difficulty in measuring crime, articulation and criminal populism: a study by the University of Chile recounts the main challenges of public safety


The Center for Citizen Security Studies (CESC) of the University of Chile’s Faculty of Government has published the progress of the first annual report on criminal policy and public safety in Chile. The document that accounts for the last two decades in this matter, revealing a series of institutional challenges in the face of the transformations of the criminal scenario affecting the country.

According to the report, a series of age-old institutional and extra-institutional critical issues are observed: difficulty in measuring crime and in gathering more information from the state; need for greater articulation between the organs of the penal system; greater and better measurement of criminal policies.

The paper also reported lobbying for criminal populism (or irrationality in lawmaking); lack of criminological foundation; underestimation of economic crimes and lack of police reform, among others.

The activity was attended by the Minister of Justice, Marcela Riosthe national prosecutor(s). Juan Agustin Melendez and the national defender, Carlos Mora Janowho commented on the presentation of these advances and the challenges facing the institutions.

The director of the CESC, claudio gonzálezindicated that one of the main challenges facing the State in the face of the new criminal scenario is to have consolidated information, as well as measurement and evaluation of both crime and public policies.

“We have to characterize the issue of the murders very well. We know that there is more use of weapons, which are unequally distributed with concentration in urban areas and in the north, we know that organized crime has increased, but we do not have enough information on these issues. The big challenge is to be able to measure crimes and to be able to measure the impact of criminal policies in addressing these crimes,” she said.

For his part, the Minister of Justice argued that “we must continue to work on the data, but in fact in society, in public debate, in Congress and in the media, the diagnosis is that crime has increased, violence has increased and forms of crime are on the rise, the challenge is how to dialogue with that debate and how we will be able to put more science, more data and more rationality into the debate on security”.

Meanwhile, the national prosecutor commented: “there is talk that there would be greater incidences of participation of foreigners in the murders, according to the records we have, 90% and more of the murders are by citizens. The problem we have is the identification of foreigners entering Chile. It is very difficult for us to know who they are. The difficulty at an international level is very high”.

Finally, the national defender said that there is a challenge regarding institutional articulation. “We have to be able to improve communication between actors like the prosecutor, the defense, the police,” he said.

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