Country still one of safest but with troubling trend

Government statistics show Costa Rica remains one of the safest Latin American and Caribbean countries in which to live, but there is a recent rising trend in overall incidents of crime and homicides.

Current crime statistics compiled in the annual state of the nation report depict the threat of crime at an all-time high through 2010, the most recent period for which figures were used in the report.

In total, more than 235,000 crimes, for an increase of nearly 2 percent over the previous year, were reported in 2010, the report said.

Of those crimes, 527 homicides brought the country’s murder rate to 11.5 persons per every 100,000 residents. Although that is not a significant increase in the figures realized in 2009, when the three-year homicide rate of 2008 to 2010 is compared with that of the preceding three years, 2005 to 2007, the increase is substantial: 46 percent, according to the report.

In comparison, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reports the United States had a homicide rate of
about 5 persons per 100,000 residents, although that rate is on average twice as high in urban areas.

Among its Central American counterparts Costa Rica has the lowest reported homicide rate next to Nicaragua, whereas countries like Honduras and El Salvador have rates six times greater than Costa Rica’s, according to the statistics. Yet, all the Central American countries have experienced significant increases in that category since 2000.

And authorities in Costa Rica at least seem to have pinpointed the cause behind the rising number of homicides within the country. The reports attributes 40 percent of the assassinations in 2010 with professional hitmen or revenge killings related to narcotrafficking, compared to 15 percent of the people killed in the mid 1990s.

Property crime in Costa Rica was also at historically high levels last year with 1,825 reported cases per 100,000 residents.

And corresponding with the increase in crime in Costa Rica is congestion within the judicial system of pending cases, caused by more cases entering the courts each year than are adjudicated completely, the reports show.

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