Street thefts buck trend of some declines in major crimes

In 2012, 20 reports were filed a day by pedestrians who had their personal property stolen. These thefts increased nearly 44 percent last year to a total of 7,194 crimes, according to the end-of-the-year report from the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Of all crimes, this one saw the greatest increase. This can be attributed partly to the rise in the number of persons with cell phones and the change made by prosecutors to allow people to file reports for lower valued items, the report stated.

The crimes usually happened on Friday and Saturday between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. in the cantons of San José, Puntarenas and Alajuela.

Also on the rise was the number of home robberies. The number of homes broken into rose by 4.6 percent, which means that there was one extra case for every 20 that were reported in 2011. The final number or reported robberies were 6,929.

All the data came from reports made to the organization and does not include the other police forces, said Director General Francisco Segura Montero. However, the judicial investigators usually end up with nearly all the nation’s reports eventually.

The criminal report breaks down nine “crimes of interest” that includes homicides, vehicle robbery, assaults, building robberies, home assaults, rape, stolen vehicles, home robberies and thefts from persons. The first seven saw decreases in the last year that ranged from around 6 percent to 17 percent.

The challenge of 2013 is to maintain the yearly trend of crimes of interest, ensuring a decrease in overall recorded crime, said the report. It has been observed that over the last five years there has been an upward trend, which has only slightly decreased during the year 2010. However it is necessary to focus efforts towards those trends with the largest increase, both of these have a great social impact,” said the report

Segura endorsed this sentiment by saying the police are working together to keep crime low and have increased their efforts in high-risk criminal areas such as San José and Limón. They are also analyzing data to understand where and why things are most happening. They will use the findings to combat crime, he said.

A time breakdown shows that a violent crime happens in Costa Rica every 40 minutes equating to three crimes every two hours. A crime that does not use violence occurs ever 20 minutes or three an hour, according to the data.

Tourists should be the least worried about being robbed at knife or gunpoint. According to the data of such cases last year, 83 percent of victims are Costa Ricans. The foreigners robbed last year came from more than 50 nations, the top being Nicaragua, Colombia and the United States.

The majority of robbery victims are male pedestrians in the San José, Alajuela and Heredia cantons. The districts with the highest assault numbers are Hospital and Catedral of San José and Limón, the report said.

The security ministry issued a quick response expressing satisfaction with the decrease in crime. Citing judicial figures, the ministry said that vehicle thefts fell by 15.5 percent, robberies were down 13.4 percent and thefts in buildings were down 12.5 percent. Home invasions were also down, some 10.6 percent.

Although 394 persons were murdered in 2010, the ministry said that this was 78 fewer than the previous year. The murder rate per 100,000 persons fell from 10.3 in 2011 to 8.9 last year, the ministry said.

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