Survey says nearly half of crime victims stay mum

A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson
There is no doubt that Christmas is near at the Zuñiga home in Barrio Escalante.

Barely half of thefts and robberies are being reported to authorities by Costa Ricans, according to CID/Gallup’s most recent public opinion poll.

In addition, as of September, 61 percent of Costa Ricans believe that crime is on the rise. For the past two years, crime has consistently been rated as the country’s most pressing issue by participants in the survey.

However, 16 months ago 80 percent of Costa Ricans thought crime was on the rise, so the new numbers suggest a bleak but improving outlook on crime in the country.

The data comes from a three-times-per-year survey conducted by the Latin American polling company CID/Gallup. The survey is conducted in all Central American countries excluding Belize. But it includes the Dominican Republic. The survey is performed every January, May and September.

The survey is mostly concerned with public opinion on domestic politics. Crime is not a major part of the survey, but it is addressed each time.

Crime and delinquency has been listed as the most pressing national issue for participants in every survey in the past two years.

Surveyors found that citizens are still tense, but seeing improvements regarding crime frequency. The number of Costa Ricans who believe that crime is on the rise has dropped from 80 percent to 61 percent over 16 months, the polls found. In September, 32 percent believed crime was leveling off and 8 percent believed that crime was decreasing.

The survey always includes a question that is meant
to track robberies and thefts. That question asks participants if someone in their home has been the victim of theft or robbery in the past four months.

This number has fluctuated over the past year. In January, 24 percent reported that a family member had been such a victim in the four preceding months.

The number was 20 percent in May and then 21 percent in September.

By this measure, Costa Rica had the second lowest rate of the seven countries surveyed. Nicaragua had the lowest rate with 19 percent.

The Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos’s data from 2011 says there are about 1.3 million households in Costa Rica. So about 260,000 homes contained at least one person who was a victim of these crimes in the previous four months.

CID/Gallup asked for the first time in September if these victims of thefts and robberies reported the crimes. Only 51 percent of respondents said that the victim did go to the police after the incident. The survey clarifies what has been known for a long time: that many crime victims do not make a report. The exact percentage had not been known.

The survey does not ask how many people in the house were victims of these crimes or for any information that might show what demographics are being victimized the most. The survey also does not separate thefts and robberies.

Robos and asaltos have different definitions in Costa Rica than in the United States. An official from CID/Gallup explained that both are stealing, but robo is without the victim’s immediate knowledge, in other words a U.S. theft, while asalto is by use of force or the threat of force, which is the definition of robbery in the United States.

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