Judicial stats show fewer persons murdered in 2011

Judicial Investigating Organization statistics show what authorities are calling a positive decrease in homicides on a national level. But the numbers also demonstrate other areas where police have been unsuccessful in curtailing incidents of crime, such as assaults and home invasions, both which increased in 2011.

Jorge Rojas, director of the investigative organization, explained that in 2011 the number of homicides in Costa Rica decreased by 11 percent from 2010 and even more so in comparison with 2009. The number of homicides in 2010 was 520, and in 2011 there were 459 homicides reported. Rojas said the 2011 figure could still increase by 20 homicides because that many cases are still being analyzed and investigated. He said more concrete figures will be released in March.

The current statistics place Costa Rica at about 10 homicides per 100,000 persons, a common rate used for comparison on an international level. Although it is better than in 2010, the rate is still more than double what it was in the mid 1990s. Rojas said Costa Rica is far from being Honduras which was recently declared one of the deadliest places in the world and has a reported rate of 86 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.

But the figure also puts Costa Rica at double the rate of the United States and well above other modernized nations such as Japan, which has less than one homicide per 100,000 persons. Louisiana as a state and the District of Columbia both have higher homicide rates than Costa Rica.

When broken down into provinces, Cartago, Heredia and Guanacaste and Alajuela all have relatively low rates of homicide. And San José has dropped steadily in homicides since 2009. Meanwhile Puntarenas and Limón had the highest homicide rate last year. Limón was the only province to have an increase in homicides from 2010 to 2011. The province had 26 more homicides in 2011 than in 2010 and remains the province with the most murders.

Moreover, Limón has already began 2012 with a spat of violent murders and crime. The Fuerza Pública dispatched hundreds more police officers to the region Monday. Rojas said it is one of the most problematic regions and may be for a long time because many of the criminals are young.

What officials were not so proud of is the elevated number of robberies and home invasions that took place in 2011. There were more than 12,500 reported robberies in 2011. A majority took place in San José, and a majority were conducted with a firearm. Although the number of home burglaries declined by 6 percent from 2010 to 2011, approximately 6,500 occurred last year, the number of home invasions increased by 21 percent. About 780 took place last year.

Rojas said that figure is troubling and people should be more careful about for whom they open the door. He said many of the home invasions take place in the morning or late afternoon when one of the occupants is coming from or going to work.

The statistics released Thursday also said that car thefts and burglaries are declining.

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