Less than 400 convictions reported after 17,000 youth crimes

The number of criminal charges filed against minors in Costa Rica went up for the fourth straight year in 2011, according to a report released by the Poder Judicial’s statistics department.

The report said that just over 17,000 charges were filed against minors between the ages of 12 and 17 in 2011. Investigators recalculated that as 40 out of every 1,000 minors charged with crimes.

Less than 400 of these cases resulted in a conviction and some form of punishment, the report said.

Nearly a third of these cases were filed with the juvenile court in San José alone. Another third of these cases were filed in juvenile courts of Pococí, Cartago, Limón and Alajuela.

The report is part of a process in which the Sección de Estadísticas of the Poder Judicial releases sets of crime statistics from the previous year piecemeal.

Researchers said that 17,000 charges filed against minors in 2011 represents a 4.3 percent increase in cases from the previous year, which translates to an increase of about 700 cases.
Young women were accused of crime at a surprisingly high rate. The report says that out of the 40 per 1,000 minors charged, 12 of them were women, or just under a third of the cases.

The report also says that about 80 percent of these cases were for crimes, while only about 19 percent were for more minor violations.

Less than 1 percent of these cases were for traffic violations.

In all, only 670 cases resulted in a sentence being handed down to the minor, according to the report. Only about half of these were actually sentenced to some form of punishment, usually for robbery. The other half were acquitted.

The report says the average age of the minors convicted and sentenced to a punishment was 16.4, and most of these convicts were given probation, kept in a special center for convicted youth, ordered to perform community service, restitution and other common punishments for minors.

Additionally, researchers found that San José led by far in the number of cases with about 4,800. After that, both the Atlantic region based in Pococí and Cartago each had about 1,600 cases, the region based in Limón Centro had about 1,200 cases and Alajuela had just over 1,000 cases.

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