Half of all Costa Ricans say they are worried about street crime, despite this country being one of the safest in Central America, according to a survey by the United Nations Development Program’s Latin American Opinion Project (UNDP-LAOP).
Murder rates in Costa Rica have picked up in 2013 after showing a decline in 2012. The Judicial Investigation Police reported that one person dies every 24 hours in the country and that 300 homicides were committed between January and October of 2013. Most killings were related to robberies, but 60 were linked to organized crime.
Costa Rica’s murder rate had decreased by 15 percent in 2012 compared to the previous year, but new statistics show it is increasing this year.
Costa Rica was one of the few countries in the region – along with Colombia, Guatemala and El Salvador – where murder rates were decreasing.
“Latin America is the most unequal and most insecure region in the world, despite showing economic growth and social improvements,” the U.N.’s report, “Citizen Security with a Human Face,” noted.
Crime and violence cost Costa Rica about 2.5 percent, or $915 million, of the country’s gross domestic product in 2010, the report said. Honduras, the most violent country in the world outside of combat zones, incurs the highest cost of crime and violence as a percentage of its GDP, at 10.5 percent, or $1.7 billion.
Crime contributes to public expenditures on health care and law enforcement, and affects private investment, the report noted. For example, Costa Rica has the sixth largest number of private security guards in the region, totaling 500 per 100,000 people. Panama, Honduras, Guatemala and Brazil have more than 800 private security guards per 100,000.
Also, one-third of Costa Ricans reported to the LAOP survey that they have restricted their entertainment options due to a perceived lack of public security.
One in five Costa Ricans said organized crime and drug trafficking are a major threat to public safety.