Jun 11 2012

Crime Stats in Costa Rica

People often ask, “Why did you choose Costa Rica?” In answer, we often cite the following:

From http://web.worldbank.org. Click to Enlarge.

There were fewer murders in Costa Rica in 2011 than in 2010. There were 474 murders in Costa Rica last year, down by 53 from the year before. Remember, Costa Rica has a population of 4.5 million, so the murder rate in 2011 was 10.3 per 100,000 inhabitants. You can reduce this rate even further by paying attention to where you decide to live. (Note: We live in a region of Costa Rica that has only 0-5 murders per 100,000.) For example:

  • Province of Limon had 24.6 per 100,000 inhabitants
  • Province of San Jose had 171 murders with a much higher population
  • Of the 474 total murders:
    • 378 were Costa Ricans
    • 55 were Nicaraguans
    • 14 were Columbians

So if you’re an Expat from elsewhere in the world (ie. Canada, United States, Europe or Asia) and you’re not involved with gangs or the drug trade, you are pretty safe. Matter of fact, Costa Rica has the lowest homicide rate in the region. According to the World Health Organization, a “violence epidemic” exists in Central America. Many reports cite Central America as perhaps the most violent region in the world. Here are some of the stats:

  • Nicaragua: 14 per 100,000
  • Panama: 19 per 100,000
  • El Salvador: 71 per 100,000
  • Honduras: 82 per 100,000
  • In 2011, Costa Rica was 10.3 per 100,000 and, according to the Public Security Ministry, based on the first 5 months, 2012 will be even lower.

New Police Car

Increased security is a major goal in Costa Rica, but it comes with a price tag. Last year the Public Security Ministry spent almost $300 million to purchase new uniforms, bullet-proof vests, 280 police cars, radios, and other essential equipment, along with hiring new officers for increased police presence. Plus, police officers in Nicaragua earn $120 a month compared to an entry-level salary of $697 a month for police officers in Costa Rica. (Note: $697 is approximately $100 more per month than the average Costa Rican worker’s salary.)

As another point of comparison, the murder rate in the United States as a whole is 5 per 100,000. But, of course, this varies dramatically with location. Our home town of Baltimore’s murder rate is over 30 per 100,000. But if you were a white male, over 50, and not involved in the drug trade, statistically, it was 0 per 100,000. This would probably hold true in many major metropolitan areas.

Source articles:

“Homicide rate drops to lowest in region,” Tico Times, June 8, 2012

“Judicial statistics show a 10 percent drop in murders,” AM Costa Rica, June 1, 2012

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