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Crime against tourists down, says Costa Rica’s Tourism Police director

January 13, 2015

Norberto Arredondo, from Antigua, Guatemala, arrived at the Pacific coastal town of Nosara two days ago to vacation with his family. Shortly after, thieves robbed valuables left momentarily unattended on the beach.

“This is a beautiful country and we thought that there would be no trouble if we left our things while we swam in the sea when this happened. Despite this, Costa Rica is still a great place,” Arredondo told The Tico Times.

On Monday, two teenagers in the central Pacific beach town of Jacó threatened a U.S. woman with a knife, stealing her purse, $300 and a cellphone before police arrested the thieves, according to a statement from the Public Security Ministry.

Cases like these are not uncommon along Costa Rica’s famous beaches and mountain destinations, but despite these unfortunate events, Tourism Police Director Xinia Vásquez told The Tico Times in a telephone interview that crimes against tourists have shown a downward trend since 2010.

Vásquez, citing figures from the Judicial Investigation Police, said that the number of thefts — the most common crime committed against tourists — dropped 6.5 percent from 735 between January and November 2013 to 687 during the same period in 2014. In San José, the ministry reported a 55 percent decrease in thefts in December 2014 compared to the same month in 2013.

Costa Rica remains a relatively safe destination and boasts the region’s lowest homicide rate, but travelers are still targeted by thieves. Vásquez recommended that tourists keep a close eye on their belongings and not leave them unattended, like Arredondo’s family did. The police director advised that guests take preventive measures, like not walking alone at night, and ensuring that any excursions they do — from zip lining to horseback riding — be with a a registered agency.

The National Police and Tourism Police have increased their presence in tourist destinations for the tourism high season, which lasts from November through the Easter holiday at the end of April. Police said they have mobilized 3,000 officers, 350 of whom are tourist police, to heavily touristed areas like San José, Guanacaste, Puntarenas and Limón, according to a statement from the ministry.

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