Financial cost of crimes placed at millions of dollars

Juan Diego Castro displays a slide that asks how many new crime victims can society stand as a result of the incapability and lethargy of the politicians.

Costa Rica may be one of the safest places to live — at least for criminals. That conclusion is according to a statistical analysis of crime in the country which calculated high rates of impunity among violent and non-violent transgressors. And that impunity is not only threatening the safety of people in the country, a report asserts the situation also is damaging the nation’s economic well being.

According to the study, monetary damage as a result the approximately 500 homicides which occurred in Costa Rica during 2010 was more than $60 million. Other studies cited in the report claim robberies and thefts of homes caused $171 million in losses.

A survey from 2010 shows 76 percent of national companies pay for private security measures. Security was less common among smaller businesses. On average private companies reported paying 2.3 percent of total sales for the private security measures in addition to the money paid in taxes for public security. For companies of 20 employees or less the cost was about 4 percent on average.

The report was conducted by economist Luis Rivera in coordination with the socially and politically conscious law firm, Jurisis. Rivera characterized the amount of money lost due to the climate of insecurity as troubling.

“In reality I think it’s doing a lot of damage, to the society at least,” Rivera said during a public presentation Monday.

But the more shocking results of the report lie within the analysis of the country’s punishment of criminals.
For homicides: Over the past 13 years, a period during which there were more than 4,200 murders, the report says that 61 percent of those registered homicides did not result in a conviction.

For rape: Over the past 13 years the lack of conviction among rape cases was nearly 90 percent, with 17,885 reported incidents during that time. Robbery suspects had the highest rate of non-conviction, at more than 97 percent over the same period, according to the report.

Jurisis is directed by the former security minister Juan Diego Castro. He said a shortage of resources for the law enforcement and penitentiary systems and a lack of political will to reform the penal code are at the root of the insecurity problem.

“I attribute the impunity to the incapacity of the judicial system to punish criminals,” Castro said.

He said in general, based on the statistics, criminals are rarely punished, and if they are, they often serve insufficient punishments and repeat offend.
He is a frequent television guest who presents a hard line on crime.

Castro said one of the most efficient ways to stop violent crime in the country would be to immediately detain any person caught with a prohibited firearm, send him or her to a flagrancy judge and have the person serve four years in prison if found guilty.

The current security minister, Mario Zamora Cordero, has also said that taking firearms out of the hands of criminals is one of the most effective ways to curb the recent rise in homicides and violent crime. But there have been no efforts by the Laura Chinchilla Miranda administration to make criminal laws more strict.

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