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Costa Rica closes 2018 with decrease in homicides

For the first time since 2012, Costa Rica closed a year with a decrease in the number of homicides.

The Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) recorded 587 homicides for the calendar year, Minister of Public Safety Michael Soto announced in a press conference. In 2017, OIJ reported a record-breaking 603 homicides.

“This is tremendously relevant, because since 2012 [the number of homicides] registered a significant ascent, and in 2017 a historical record was broken,” Soto said.

The encouraging trend comes despite a first quarter of 2018 which was the most violent on record. A new initiative from Soto, who was appointed by President Carlos Alvarado in May, was highlighted as instrumental on helping to curb the murder rate.

Dubbed a “Megaoperativo,” the strategy involves twice-weekly coordinated efforts with all the nation’s police force to target high-crime areas at high-incident times.

Soto’s goal was to finish below last 2017’s record-breaking murder tally, which authorities blamed on drug trafficking and score-settling between gangs.

Despite the reduction in homicides, the 2018 data still works out to 11.7 murders per 100,000 occupants in Costa Rica — above the rate of 10 per 100,000 the World Health Organization considers as a baseline for an “epidemic.”

Soto said 2018’s decrease in homicides was accompanied by historical figures in the seizure of drugs and weapons. Last year, 33.6 tons of cocaine, 6.7 tons of marijuana and 470 kilos of heroin were seized.

Additionally, 2,155 weapons — the majority of them pistols — were confiscated.

This story was updated Jan. 3 at 9:15 a.m. with further information from AFP. 

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