Costa Rica’s reputation as an island of peace and stability in Central America is being threatened by a rising wave of violent crime. A recent survey conducted by the Costa Rican Union of Chambers and Associations of the Private Business Sector (UCCAEP) revealed that 18% of 380 companies surveyed stated they have been negatively impacted by the country’s escalating homicide rate and crime wave.
UCCAEP Executive Director Jorge Araya described the 18% figure as “high and very pitiful.” He stated, “Two out of every 10 companies say they have been affected by violent crimes. We consider this a troubling and concerning statistic.”
The increase in homicides and general feeling of insecurity is producing ripple effects across Costa Rican society. One of the primary consequences is that consumers are avoiding shopping or visiting stores during nighttime hours out of safety fears. This is severely impacting the bottom lines of many local businesses.
The country’s crucial tourism industry is also suffering major consequences from rising crime levels. International visitors are changing their consumption habits and limiting activities due to safety incidents affecting local communities. UCCAEP Director Araya explained this is damaging Costa Rica’s international reputation as a secure tourist destination among travelers.
UCCAEP’s mid-year survey results from June 2023 paint an even grimmer picture. That survey found 19% of companies had been direct victims of criminal activity, while a staggering 69% were incurring new expenses for security measures like surveillance systems, monitoring and alarms. Meanwhile, the Chamber of Retailers estimated 60% of its small business members suffered a crime incident just within the first half of 2023.
First Vice-President Maritza Hernández believes the solution lies in strengthening Costa Rica’s national education system and opportunities for youth. She stated, “Costa Rica needs to do something. We are already having image problems internationally, but mainly the quality of life for both business people and average Costa Rican citizens is declining.”
UCCAEP leadership stressed that urgent action must be taken to reverse this crisis, particularly through preventing vulnerable youth from entering gang life. “The issue of crime and robberies is extremely worrying for the country,” emphasized UCCAEP President José Álvaro Jenkins.
The raw data from the judicial system underline the severity of the emerging crisis. As of December 6, Costa Rica’s Judicial Investigation Agency has recorded 844 total homicides so far in 2023. This represents a staggering 244 additional homicides versus the same period in 2022, indicating a dangerously escalating threat to public safety.