RISING street crime and several tragic events elevated 2005 to the most violent year in the past five years, with a total of 924 violent deaths throughout the year for an average of 2.5 violent deaths per day, the Red Cross told The Tico Times Monday.
Red Cross spokeswoman Noemy Coto said three plane crashes, the tragic fire at the Calderón Guardia Hospital in downtown San José (TT, July 15, 2005) and the bank-robbery-turned-hostage-crisis in the idyllic village of Santa Elena de Monteverde in north-central Costa Rica that left nine people dead (TT, March 11, 2005), all contributed to making 2005 a particularly violent year. In 2004, the Red Cross registered 839 violent deaths.
The principal cause of violent death throughout the year was traffic accidents, which accounted for 41.6% of lives lost in Costa Rica, Coto said. According to Red Cross statistics, 129 people died in collisions, and another 155 were killed by being run over.
Overall, traffic accidents are decreasing, Coto said, thanks to efforts by transit
Murders with either guns or knives, however, are rising and represented 22.2% of violent deaths in 2005, the second most common cause. Coto blames this rise on multiple factors, including an increase in guns among the Costa Rican population.
“Because of the insecurity, people arm themselves and this makes the situation worse,” she said.
Across the country, San José is the province with the highest number of violent deaths, representing 30% nationwide, followed by Limón with 15.5% and then Puntarenas with 15.25%.
December, normally a month with elevated crime, death and violence, was relatively similar to 2004, despite the overall increase in 2005. The final month of last year produced a total of 72 violent deaths – 16 involving knives or firearms, 13 caused by traffic collisions and 12 from being struck by vehicles.
The most violent month of the year was July, during which 98 people died violently. It was during this month that the fire at Calderón Guardia Hospital took 21 lives.