Nearshore Americas
Costa Rica

Costa Rica Cracks Down on Criminals as Homicide Rate Soars

Costa Rica’s police are seeking support from other government agencies and the judiciary as the Central American country struggles to crack down on organized crime syndicates responsible for a sudden spike in homicide rates.
Costa Rica boasts the region’s lowest homicide rate, but at least 530 people were murdered in the country in 2015, taking the homicide rate back to the levels not seen since 2010, when 527 homicides were committed. This continues a trend in recent years. According to the 2014 annual report by the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ), the homicide rate increased by 14.6% the previous year, from 411 murders in 2013 to 471 in 2014.
Authorities are blaming the spike on organized crime. Citing a statement from Public Security Minister Gustavo Mata, local newspaper the Tico Times reported that 55% of homicides are tied to organized crime. The Regional Security Office of the U.S. Embassy agrees that many of the incidents in the metropolitan San José area are related to disputes among local organized criminal elements over control of the drug-trafficking markets to neighborhoods south and east of the city.
Two weeks ago, a U.S. woman working for a charity was murdered at a hotel in capital San José. Though it is not clear whether she was a victim of thieves or a target of organized criminals, this is not the first case of attack on U.S. citizens. In March last year, a U.S. businessman was severely injured in a shooting incident.
According to the U.S. State Department, which asks the U.S. citizens to enroll in its Smart Traveler Enrollment Program so that embassy officials can easily contact them in case of an emergency, criminal gangs are not targeting American citizens. Most of the attacks on U.S. citizens are theft-related cases.
In a press conference in October, Mata unveiled a plan to set up a task force to fight organized crime and urged other government agencies to coordinate with police. Days later, Costa Rican police backed by the U.S. and Italian authorities raided several properties across the country in an attempt to arrest members of a cocaine-trafficking ring linked to the ‘Ndrangheta mafia.

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Narayan Ammachchi

News Editor for Nearshore Americas, Narayan Ammachchi is a career journalist with a decade of experience in politics and international business. He works out of his base in the Indian Silicon City of Bangalore.

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