Did you know that, according to the Organization of American States (OAS), Costa Rica has the highest robbery rate in the entire western hemisphere? In 2010, there were 943 robberies per 100,000 people in Costa Rica, with a total of 43,000 robberies for the year. In the U.S., during the same period, the robbery rate was 123/100,000. Historically, Argentina has held the distinction of the highest robbery rate, but hasn’t reported their stats for the past two years.
We’re not trying to scare you, but it’s important to know the facts about crime in Costa Rica. In its Costa Rica 2011 Crime and Safety Report, the U.S. Bureau of Diplomatic Security (OSAC) states, “Crimes of opportunity, such as robberies, purse snatchings, and burglaries, are the most common types of crimes committed in Costa Rica and are increasing.” Here in San Ramon, we’ve always felt safe and have never (knock on wood) been robbed, but we know a few others who have. We sometimes hear of building sites being vandalized to steal copper wire to sell for scrap, or homes being broken into to steal computers and other electronics left sitting out. Security is #1 here. If you can’t leave your house unattended, if you are always worried about your property, then what good is “living in paradise?”
It depends somewhat on where you live. There is certainly more crime in tourist areas and big cities, just like in other countries. Even in relatively safe areas, there are safer and less safe choices. You have to be prudent, wherever you choose to live.
But despite the high robbery rate, as the homicide map to the right shows, Costa Rica is the safest country in Central America, and the 10th safest out of 37 in the Western hemisphere.
As a comparison, 14,000 people suffered violent deaths in the United States in 2010, at a rate of 4.6/100,000 people. Both numbers are the lowest in decades. The rate was also the 3rd lowest in the hemisphere, following Canada and Chile.
In 2010, Costa Rica had a murder rate of 11.4/100,000 people. In 2011, that rate declined to 10.3/100,000. There were 527 murders in 2010 and 474 in 2011. Based on the stats for the first quarter, the 2012 murder rate will show a significant decline. Here in San Ramon, where we live, there is a murder rate of 0-5/100,000 for the whole canton.
The data in the OAS report was collected from police and crime investigative organizations in all countries throughout the hemisphere. The majority of murders were committed with guns, and most victims were young and male. Most frequently, the victims knew their assailants as in domestic violence, or were in the drug trade.
The website Diálogo reported in June 2012 that “Costa Rica’s Crime Rate Tumbles as Police Take Back the Streets” They point out that during the first quarter of 2012, Costa Rica had only 22 murders, down from 56 in the first quarter of 2011. Costa Rica has increased their security budget and doubled the number of police vehicles in the last year. “We are working to reduce the perception and feeling of insecurity that has grown in Costa Rica in recent years,” Security Minister Mario Zamora said in early May. “The more police and police vehicles are present on the streets, the more secure people feel walking in their neighborhoods.”
Here are the crime stats OAS reported in 2009 for Costa Rica:
- Suicides: 6.1/100,000
- Rapes: 36.8/100,000
- Thefts: 104/100,000
- Motor Thefts: 134/100,000
- Assaults: 162/100,000
Crimes other than murder are often under-reported in Costa Rica and many other countries because victims do not expect results from the police.
OSAC’s 2011 report also states, “Costa Rica is a stable, well-developed democracy which abolished its military over 60 years ago. Labor strikes and protests do occur in Costa Rica (but are) normally peaceful…Indigenous terrorist organizations are non-existent. There is no known organization targeting U.S. citizens or U.S.-affiliated interests in Costa Rica.”
We hope our articles on crime help in your decision regarding retiring in Costa Rica. Here are links to our previous crime articles:
Crime Stats in Costa Rica (June 2012)
Crime in Costa Rica (April 2012)
U.S. Department of State Update on Costa Rica (July 2011)
And in the interest of full-disclosure, we have been victims of one crime. If you haven’t already seen the video, here’s a replay: