Officials from the U.S. Embassy’s consular section recently visited the booming central Pacific beach town Jacó to learn more about the region’s burgeoning crime problems and look for ways to work with Costa Rican authorities to better protect U.S. citizens from robbery and assault.
Jacó consistently turns up among the embassy’s crime hotspots, in a country where more U.S. passports are stolen than in any other consular district in the world (roughly 1,400 per year). Robberies and car break-ins –some of which result in stolen passports – are the most commonly reported crimes against U.S. citizens in the central Pacific region.
U.S. Consul Nick Manring, who deals with stolen passport cases on an almost daily basis, said the situation is alarming, particularly in such a small country.
“We’ve really come to realize there is a serious problem here in Costa Rica,” he said, adding that the country sees more stolen passports than almost all the rest of Central and South America combined.
At a meeting of business and government leaders at the Best Western Jacó May 3, embassy officials saw presentations on rising crime and development issues, and spoke with area representatives of the Tourism Police, the National Police and the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ).
Víctor Ramírez, who represented the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) at the meeting, said U.S. citizens tend to be very “trusting” when on vacation, and thus, are often victims of petty crimes – which can “ruin an otherwise enjoyable vacation.”
He said he hopes the two countries would continue to work together, sharing information and improving the country’s newly fledged Tourism Police.
“We can have hundreds of police officers, but unless they are well trained to deal with these situations, it doesn’t matter,” he said.
Manring said U.S. Embassy crime statistics are regularly shared with Costa Rican officials allowing them to make informed decisions on where to place police patrols and emphasize security measures.