The topic of crime in Costa Rica comes up a lot in our Discussion Forum and we recently had one of our VIP Members quote some statistics from Janes about Rising Crime in Costa Rica so we thought we would look into the numbers…

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Our VIP Members are naturally more concerned with the crime rates in the areas where they are living in Costa Rica, or where they might plan on living in the future.

When someone plans to retire in the USA, they would be foolish to base their overall decision on the crime rate in the worst city in the USA which is the nation’s capital Washington DC which has a murder rate of 35.4 per capita compared to San Jose, Costa Rica’s of 7.3 according to the OIJ

So why do we need to be obsessed with the crime rate in San Jose? The place in Costa Rica that has the worst crime rate especially since very few of our VIP Members wish to live in San Jose?

This does not mean that we ignore information that shows crime is on the increase, we do not, there are numerous articles on this site about crime, but it certainly does mean that we will focus on producing more relevant information about areas where our VIP Members are choosing to live.

And it also means that we try to make appropriate comparisons, and since a large percentage of our VIP Members come from the USA, one of the ways we can put things into perspective is to compare crime in the city of San Jose, Costa Rica with various cities in America.

According to Infoplease the following murder and rape rates per 100,000 inhabitants was taken from U.S. FBI, Crime in the United States annual.

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  • Los Angeles – Murder 12.6 and rape 28.5
  • Chicago – Murder 15.6 and rape
  • Houston – Murder 16.3 and rape 42.6
  • Philadelphia – Murder 25.6 and rape 69.5
  • Phoenix – Murder 15 and rape 36.4
  • Dallas – Murder 16.4 and rape 45.7
  • Las Vegas – Murder 11.3 and rape 48.1
  • Detroit – Murder 41.4 and rape 65.5
  • Indianapolis – Murder 13.5 and rape 65.8
  • Jacksonville – Murder 11.4 and rape 23.8
  • San Francisco – Murder 12.8 and rape 23
  • Columbus – Murder 14.1 and rape 76.3
  • Memphis – Murder 20.3 and rape 59.1
  • Baltimore – Murder 42 and rape 25.3
  • Milwaukee – Murder 20.6 and rape 26.9
  • Kansas City – Murder 28.1 and rape 65.9
  • Cleveland – Murder 24 and rape 106.3
  • Atlanta – Murder 20.9 and rape 51.8
  • Miami – Murder 13.9 and rape 16
  • Tulsa – Murder 15 and rape 78.4
  • Minneapolis – Murder 12.5 and rape 106.8
  • St. Louis – Murder 37.9 and rape 79.8
  • Cincinnati – Murder 25.1 and rape 104.7
  • Buffalo – Murder 19.8 and rape 65
  • Stockton – Murder 14.6 and rape 38.7
  • Newark – Murder 34.5 and rape 29.5
  • Mobile – Murder 14 and rape 29.6
  • San Jose, Costa Rica – Murder 6.6 (According to or 7.3 according to the OIJ) – Specific rape data for the city could not be found.

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We should remember that there are many cities in the US that have far lower murder rates than San Jose, Costa Rica just as we should remember that the majority of other towns in Costa Rica have far lower crime rates and very few murders.

  1. According to the U.S. Department of State – Information on Deaths Abroad of U.S. Citizens, in the past three years from January 2005 to December 2007 the #1 non-natural cause of death for American citizens in Costa Rica was drowning.
  2. The #2 cause was car accidents and during this entire three year period, only 12 US citizens were murdered and two of those Americans were murdered by other Americans
  3. According to the the USA has an assault rate of 7.56923 per 1,000 people. The UK at 7.45959, Canada at 7.11834 and Costa Rica? 0.178287 per 1,000 people.
  4. also has the US rape rate at 0.301318 per 1,000 people and Costa Rica? 0.118277 – Looking at the numbers above, as of two minutes ago, my daughter is now not allowed to visit Cleveland, Cincinnati or Minneapolis never mind live there.
  5. According to the same source Costa Rica does have a higher robbery rate of 4.79109 per 1,000 people compared to the US at 1.38527 per 1,000 people, but total crimes per capita in the USA is 80.0645 per 1,000 people and in Costa Rica only 11.9788

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There’s no way for us to know what percentage of crimes anywhere go unreported.

So admittedly this data does show that the robbery rate in Costa Rica is more than three times the rate in the USA however, the murder rate in the following US cities is more than twice as high as San Jose, Costa Rica: Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Dallas, Detroit, Memphis, Baltimore, Milwaukee, Kansas City, Cleveland, Atlanta, Tulsa, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Buffalo and Newark.

So if you are one of the very few people who are planning on living in San Jose, Costa Rica we would encourage you to use the same common sense caution that you would do when living in New York which has the same murder rate (6.6)

But with the assault rate in the USA 42 times worse than in Costa Rica, the rape rate in the USA is twice as bad and the total crime rate in the USA 6 times worse than Costa Rica it makes you realize that crime in Costa Rica is often blown completely out of proportion.

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I have not been living in a cage since I moved here. I have lived in an apartment in Bello Horizonte in San Rafael de Escazu, in a 180 year old adobe home in a very humble area of San Antonio de Escazu, then in a bungalow in a working class area of San Antonio de Escazu, a home in Trejos Montealegre de Escazu – a more upscale area, another apartment in San Rafael de Escazu, a log home in the mountains 90 minutes away from San Jose in the middle of ‘nowhere’ where nobody spoke a word of English, and finally a new home in a gated condominium community in Santa Ana.

But just for a moment let’s forget the fact that some people think I am a biased SOB because they know I love this place and absolutely do consider it a land of stunning scenery, sunshine and smiles, and let me ask you a question…

Looking at these numbers, where would you prefer to live?

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Written by Scott Oliver, author of How To Buy Costa Rica Real Estate Without Losing Your Camisa and Costa Rica’s Guide To Making Money Offshore.

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