Though Costa Rica’s crime problem has increased, the fear that people harbor here about crime surpasses the reality of the problem. This puts Costa Rica at risk of becoming a country less tolerant of individual liberty and human rights.
That was one of the conclusions drawn in a report coordinated by Costa Rica’s current Vice-President Kevin Casas for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The report was recently awarded the U.N. Human Development Prize in the category of excellence in innovation, concepts and measures in human development.
Casas, who co-coordinated the 2005 report with Lara Blanco, plans to attend the June 20 awards ceremony with the UNDP delegation of Costa Rica.
The panel of international judges that selected the report for the award, given every two years by the UNDP, include Crown Prince Haakon of Norway, Bolivia’s former President Jorge Quiroga, Princess Basma of Jordan and Indian professor Gita Sen.
The 600-page report, entitled “Overcoming Fear: Citizen (In)Security and Human Development in Costa Rica,” also “eliminated a series of myths” about public safety in Costa Rica, according to a UNDP statement.
The report revealed that fewer than 10% of Costa Rica’s prisoners are foreigners, which goes against the popular notion that Costa Rica’s crime problem is due to an influx of immigration. Nicaraguans, whom headlines here often single out as criminal offenders, make up fewer than 6% of the country’s prisoners.
The report also says more than half of calls received by Costa Rican police are reports of domestic violence, which suggests that violence may not be as much a problem on the streets as it is in the home, the statement said.
“This isn’t an award for UNDP Costa Rica, rather for the entire country, since Costa Ricans elaborated this top quality project and gave their substantive contributions to the understanding of the phenomenon that is citizen insecurity,” said José Manuel Hermida, UNDP’s resident representative in Costa Rica.