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Costa Rica Crime - Murder Rates
10th January 2006: 307 murders were committed last year which is an increase of 32 victims over the year 2004 when 275 murders were committed.
These 307 murders indicate a rate of 7.3* (see comparisons to major US cities below) for every 100,000 inhabitants. The rate for 2004 was 6.6, which was a decrease from 2003 with 300 victims.
The majority of these murders were committed with hand guns.
The director of the Organization of Legal Investigation (OIJ) said that criminals most often use guns while committing other crimes, such as robbery, when they shoot and kill the victim.
According to the Pan American Organization of Health (OPS) the rate of homicide for every 100,000 inhabitants throughout the Isthmus from 2000-2005 was 122.4.
Costa Rica's rate for this period was the lowest with 6.2 and El Salvador's was the highest with 22.4.
OPS reports that in Latin America only Uruguay, Chile and Peru had lower rates than Costa Rica's.
In March and April of 2005, 14 more murders were committed in Costa Rica than in the year before. These numbers include the shoot-out at the National Bank in Monteverde when nine people were killed.
Nevertheless, January 2005 also saw more murders with 35 victims, including when a taxi driver, angry over his pension, killed five people in Puntarenas.
The Province of San Jose once again registered the most homicides in the country with 130 victims, 13 more than the year before.
These 130 crimes indicate a rate of 9.2 per 100,000 inhabitants. Limon, with 39 murders (the same as in 2004) has the highest rate in the country: 9.4.
The Province of Puntarenas registered 37 homicides, nine more than in 2004 and has the second highest rate in the country: 9.4.
According to the OPS from January 2004 to November 2005, there were 557 homicide victims, for an average of 24 murders a month.
Less Homicides in Heredia
Heredia is the only province in the country that registered fewer homicides in 2005 compared to 2004. There were 17 homicides last year and 23 the year before.
The director of the Organization of Legal Investigation said he could not explain the reduction but added that over all crime had decreased in the area.
Efficient police work could be part of the decrease since the police succeeded in breaking up several bands of delinquents.
Although Heredia had the greatest decrease in crime, Cartago had the lowest homicide rate at 3.8 with 18 murders.
Heredia's rate is 4.3. Guanacaste's is a bit higher with 5.5 and 16 homicides in 2005. The rate of homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in Guancaste has decreased over the last four years.
In 2002 the rate was 8.5, in 2003 it was 6. In 2004 it was 5.89 and had gone down to 4.3 in 2005.
Our thanks to Carlos Arguedas and our friends at La Nación - Costa Rica's largest Spanish circulation newspaper for their permission to use their article.
* According to the January 03, 2005 edition of The Times of London, New York's murder rate per person: 6.9 per 100,000, "making it it the safest large city in America" and "London's murder rate per person: 2.4 per 100,000"
According to data obtained from the U.S. FBI, Crime in the United States, annual. From Statistical Abstract of the United States, 2004-2005, the following cities have a much higher murder rate than San José, Costa Rica.
- San José, Costa Rica - 9.2 per 100,000 inhabitants
- Los Angeles - 17.3
- Houston - 12.5
- Philadelphia - 18.9
- Phoenix - 12.6
- Dallas - 15.8
- Las Vegas - 11.9
- Detroit 41.8
- Indianapolis - 13.9
- Jacsonville - 11.7
- Columbus - 11.3
- Memphis - 22.5
- Milwaukee - 18.3
- Washington DC - 45.9
- New Orleans - 53.1
- Kansas City - 18.5
- Atlanta - 34.9
- Oakland - 26.1
- St. Louis - 31.4
- Pittsburgh - 13.7
- Cincinnati - 21
- Tampa - 11.7
- Buffalo - 14.6
- Newark - 23.3