More than 86% of Peruvians Feel Unsafe: Govt Survey

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A new government survey highlights how there are far more Peruvians afraid of falling victim to crime than actual crime victims, even as the country continues to struggle with thousands of urban street gangs.

A recently released survey by government statistics institute the INEI found that 38 percent of those surveyed said they had been a crime victim, with robbery the most common offense. Another 87 percent said they were afraid of falling victim to crime in the near future.

The INEI study covered 28 urban areas of Peru, including Lima and the surrounding metropolitan area, as well as the country’s most important port city, Callao.

The survey also found that gun crime has increased slightly in Peru between 2011 to 2012, rising from 5.8 to 6.6 per cent.

The results correspond with Vanderbilt University’s 2012 public opinion survey(LAPOP), which found that Peru suffers from some of the the highest perceptions of insecurity in Latin America. According to the university’s findings, Lima ranks second in the region in terms of how many people report feeling insecure, outranked only by Mexico City. Additionally, an increasing number of people in Peru are saying that insecurity is the country’s biggest problem: just 11 percent said so in 2006, compared to 31 percent in 2012.

The INEI survey comes just as Peru is considering passing a new set of legal measures meant to support the goverment’s fight against organized crime. The measures would lay out more effective procedures for police to carry out undercover work, among other reforms. The country’s top judicial authority recently called on Congress to approve the measures, which were presented to Congress by the Executive Branch last December.

InSight Crime Analysis

Gang violence and the prevalence of petty crime in Peru’s major cities are likely the main reasons why perceptions of insecurity remain so high in the Andean nation. In 2011, the government estimated there are some 13,000 gang members inside Peru, while Peru’s National Council on Citizen Security (CONASEC) has said there are up to 24,000. Most petty gangs are concentrated in Lima.

The INEI survey is indicative of how much petty crime can contribute to mass fear of insecurity, even though Peru has not witnessed the same levels of drug-related violence and gang conflict seen in other countries in the region. A video recently picked by The Guardian (watch below) showing a group of youths robbing cars stuck in a Lima traffic jam, is just one example of the type of petty crime that arguably affects urban Peruvians far more than violence related to organized crime.

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