Less crime, more violence?
QCOSTARICA – The truth is that Costa Rica is going through an unprecedented wave of violence, but it is also true that, in general terms, there are fewer criminal acts.
When comparing the statistics of the Organismo de Investigación Judicial (OIJ) for this year and last, for the period between January 1 and April 10, it is clear that there is a 5% reduction in total cases.
However, a worrying increase in violence, specifically in the number of homicides, the numbers show a 38% increase this year so far over the same period last year.
As of April 10, there have been 242 murders (not including the 8 in the last 48 hours, 2 of which occurred in San Pedro in the early hours of this Friday) and if the trend continues, Costa Rica could end up with 800 and 900 cases, according to Fiscal General (Attorney General), Carlo Díaz.
In this sense, President Rodrigo Chaves has indicated that his government is working on a scientific, systematic, and accurate proposal “to control insecurity.”
For the president, the alarming numbers in homicides are part of a conflict between drug trafficking gangs and blaming the media for exaggerating the true situation.
“One thing is a chronic health problem and another thing is an acute condition. The situation of homicides in Costa Rica is not a new situation, as some of you know, including specific media outlets,” said Chaves.
On the other hand, while common crime and drug trafficking are increasing, the number of police officers is even less than ten years ago, according to statistics from the Ministerio de Seguridad Pública (MSP) – Ministry of Public Security.
In fact, today the country has a record homicide rate for every 100,000 inhabitants while having the lowest number of police officers.
The fiscal deficit and budget cuts would explain part of the phenomenon of a smaller police force, but also the growth of the conflicts between gangs for territory and drugs.
In this sense, the president has indicated that it is time for legislators, the Judiciary and the government to analyze changes in the country’s criminal law.
“We know of cases where drug traffickers who have been caught and ended up free because a Court determined that they were poor from origin (…) Here the Judiciary, the Government and the Legislative Assembly have to get to work to change, what some call extreme pandering in criminal matters and make things a little firmer,” said Chaves.
Harsher punishments when confiscating illegal weapons, the review of prison benefits and a more punitive penal treatment against adolescents who commit serious crimes would be some of the proposals.
“We have a war problem between criminal gangs, that is clear. At the moment we are working on several projects that will be presented in mid-April, such as a plan to see the issue of adolescents who handle weapons and kill someone. On the other hand, we make 2,000 arms seizures and only 17 sentences. That has to be corrected. Finally, what percentage of people commit crimes with prison benefits? The number is very high (…) we are going to solve it,” said Chaves.
Several international media, including network news such as CBS, the New York Post and others reveal alarming figures on what is happening in Costa Rica.
CBS, for example, pointed out that the record of more than 650 homicides reported last year is related to the growing violence of drug trafficking.
The New York Post headlines that Costa Rica has left behind the “Pura Vida” to be “besieged” by crime and drugs, especially in the Caribbean, assuring that drug trafficking has taken advantage of the unemployment experienced by the country’s youth.