The U.S. State Department last week urged its citizens in Costa Rica to be on alert after an American businessman was severely wounded during a shooting in Escazú, an upscale neighborhood the in San Jose province.
The 42-year-old businessman, identified only as Noah, is said to be battling for his life in a local hospital. Costa Rica boasts the region’s lowest homicide rate but reports indicate that the country has experienced a recent increase in violence.
According to the 2014 annual report by the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ), the homicide rate increased by 14.6% from 411 murders in 2013 to 471 last year.
However, there are very few incidents of Americans or other foreigners being killed in Costa Rica. The State Department, notes that Americans are mostly the victims of theft, but that “violent crimes like murders, robberies, and sexual assaults are not committed frequently against U.S. citizens.”
Still, there have been some violent cases involving foreigners. In February last year, a gang of four men cut the throat of a 64-year-old American after dragging him out of his vehicle in San Carlos. And a few months ago Canadian expat Ryan Piercy was kidnapped, according to the local newspaper The Tico Times, although he eventually returned home safely.
There have been several other murders of foreign tourists travelling in the countryside, but the paper says crimes against tourists have shown a downward trend since 2010.
The State Department has asked the U.S. citizens to enroll in its Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) so that embassy officials can easily contact them in case of an emergency.
The State Department warned that three separate drive-by shootings have taken place in Escazú this month alone, with an American being the target in one of the attacks: “One shooting took place by the Los Anonos Bridge, another near CIMA Hospital and the third in front of the Chez Christophe restaurant located on the west side of Paco Plaza in Escazu.”