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Costa Rica suffered through most violent year on record in 2016

January 3, 2017

Not even Costa Rica could avoid the curse of 2016, as it marked the most violent year in the country’s history. Annual statistics confirm that Costa Rica continues to show alarming trends in violence, specifically when it comes to homicide and traffic mortality rates.

End-0f-year statistics from the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) show that the country set an unenviable record for murders in a single year, with 577 reported homicides in 2016, up 19 killings from last year’s previous record high.

Among these figures were notable murders of international residents, including the shooting of U.S. citizen John Lonergan outside of a night club in Jacó last September, as well as the brutal slaying of 56-year-old U.S. businessman Dirk Beauchamp alongside four members of his family in Matapalo, Guanacaste in February.

Compiled with the latest census numbers, that leaves Costa Rica with a murder rate of 12 killings for every 100,000 people in the country. That rate has nearly doubled since 2002, though it still remains a far cry from neighbors in the Northern Triangle such as El Salvador (104 killings per 100,000 people) and Honduras (61 killings per 100,000 people), according to 2015 World Bank data.

Meanwhile, on Costa Rican roads, numbers from the Traffic Police show that there were 448 accident-related deaths in 2016. That is up a staggering 50 “on-site” fatalities from the previous record rate set in 2015. More than a quarter of those killed on the roads were between the ages of 21 t0 30.

A recent survey from Australia’s Global Positioning Specialists listed Costa Rican roadways as the fourth most dangerous in the world for drivers, taking into account the poor road conditions and high mortality rate.

In terms of both homicides and traffic deaths, the deadly trend has begun spilling into the new year, according to a OIJ report that listed nine people killed in traffic accidents or murders on Sunday alone.

Rising rates of violence have also led people to become increasingly worried about safety throughout the country, according to a University of Costa Rica School of Statistics report from December. The report showed that more than half of those polled consider Costa Rica’s level of insecurity to be either high or very high.

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