Bad perception of safety

The results of the latest Perception and Victimization Survey carried out by the Bogotá Chamber of Commerce since 1996, indicate a deterioration in the perception of security in the city. Citizens’ perception of safety is the product of a complex combination of factors where there is never a single explanation. However, mayors, government or security secretaries, and many officials, but especially the Police, undervalue and delegitimize it when its indicators are adverse to what the citizens feel. It is a way of saying: the citizen is wrong, the official is right. Which is usually accompanied by an accusation to the media.

This is nothing more than the syndrome of the public official who becomes trapped in his logic, in his own goals, and stops observing the behavior of other realities. At the end of the day, the way officials see reality is a form of perception and this can also be wrong. It is true that except for bicycle theft and homicides, other crimes do not increase in the city. But crimes against life have a high impact on the criminal experience of citizens. It is wrong to continue not knowing that something is happening in the city in criminal matters. Rather, the indicators you have may not be sufficient to understand the situation. In this context, it is not surprising that the feeling of insecurity increases.

Citizen vulnerabilities are a determining factor. But these are not necessarily linked to criminal activity. In the research agenda that we advance at the Ideas for Peace Foundation (FIP) on fear and perception, we have found that security occupies a seventh or sixth place among the concerns that affect the quality of life of citizens daily. The pandemic is a phenomenon with permanent effects that have increased health, education, and employment risks for Colombians. We do not have a solid health system to support us, schools have been closed for almost a year and thousands of people have lost jobs and businesses. It is these concerns that are associated with the current perception of security in Bogotá and possibly throughout the country.

In this sense, the role of institutionality becomes relevant, which is the third element of the British model adapted in 2005 by the Bogotá Chamber of Commerce to carry out its survey. Beyond the insistence of citizens on ending police corruption, a phenomenon with an indicator similar to that registered in 2017 (43%), what happens in Bogotá and the country is a manifest weakness of political and technical entities.

Despite the presidential television program, the use of police reflective jackets by those who are not, or the demonstrations of the mayor dressed as a cyclist, medical or academic, the reality is that we are experiencing an economic and social crisis. We are not clear on when there will be mass vaccination, even though there is talk of drills and citizen preparation. I have my arm ready, I don’t need more. The second peak took Bogotá without the 4,000 promised beds. Things were said that were going to be done and they were not done. And, perhaps, this is the biggest problem, that things and things are being said all the time, like on an exercise bike that stopped in March 2019 when the quarantine started. What has changed is that we are grieving, unemployed, isolated, and depressed.

The indicators of the Chamber of Commerce, which has changed its methodology with significant problems of comparison, but which I hope will remain as the city’s heritage, must be taken very seriously both by the district administration, as well as by other mayors in the country and even the same President of the Republic. The institutions cannot assume a defensive position in the face of the results, but on the contrary, they must recover the original ideas of citizen security, destroyed by both a clueless bureaucrat, whose main objective is to protect us and not protect the State or guarantee the political security of the officials.

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