Citizens in Lima and elsewhere in Peru have grown increasingly concerned about public security, have little faith in law enforcement, and are now taking the government of President Ollanta Humala to task for failing to make crime fighting a top priority.
Between April and June, crime-perception numbers rose 17 percentage points among Lima residents, where 90% now feel unsafe in the streets, according to an Ipsos poll carried out in June for the daily El Comercio. Three of 10 respondents claimed to have been victims of crime within the last year. Of those, nearly 80% were robbed in the streets.
Numbers provided in September by the Ministerio Publico suggest that 30% of Lima residents were victims in the past year of theft or robbery, which differ in that the latter involves not just loss of property but also real or threatened violence. The ministry's Observatorio de Criminalidad (crime observatory) found that, in just the first four months of this year, an average of more than 240 thefts or robberies per day were reported in Metropolitan Lima. Real crime numbers are presumed to be significantly higher considering that more than 90% of such incidents, according to a study by Peru's Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru (based on 2012 numbers), are not reported because of low public confidence in the Policia Nacional del Peru (PNP) and the effectiveness of the judicial system.
Every day, media outlets report on streets muggings and holdups in restaurants, hair salons, casinos, and other businesses with a seemingly prosperous clientele. Added to that are stories from recent months regarding a new kind of crime: the extortion of private schools in peripheral districts of Lima where police presence is minimal. Edgardo Palomino, head of an association of some 700 private schools around Lima, says extortionists demand sums of between US$940 and US$9,400 not to harm students, teachers, or school directors. In some cases, the criminals have attacked schools with gunfire and hand grenades as a means of intimidation.
"First they approach offering you security," Palomino told the daily La Republica in late May. "If you don't oblige, threats start to arrive--against you or your family. They don't stop pressuring with letters, emails, or messages on social networks until they've accomplished their objective."
Palomino made his comments shortly after Sabel Evangelista, the director of the Maria Montessori school in Lima's San Juan de Lurigancho district,...