San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

1st Half Murders Spike

Halfway through the year, the number of homicides has already broken 200, about 33 percent higher than recent years.

The country of 4.3 million people now is averaging more than one murder per day. “(It’s) the highest it’s ever been,” said Paula Guido, chief prosecutor in charge of San José’s “Crimes Against Life” unit, which investigates murders, attempted murders, assaults, traffic accidents and malpractice cases.

Police say they are seeing more firearms and slightly more homicides in self-defense.

Of the 202 murders committed January through June, 67.8 percent were with firearms, and 184 of the victims were men.

Seventy-eight killings were the result of “fights, arguments, revenge or debts.” In 46 cases, police have not determined the motive. In 40 murders, people were killed during the commission of other crimes, such as robberies. And an increasing number – 12 officially so far this year – were committed by people defending themselves, a family member, neighbors or property.

“We’re definitely seeing an increase in repelling criminal activity,” said Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) crime analyst Víctor Fernández.

Guido said there’s no disputing an increasing trend in people arming themselves, which she believes is resulting in more homicides in general.

“There’s such a high level of criminality that everyone is arming themselves legally or illegally,” Guido said. “The crime has increased so much that people are really feeling the need to defend themselves.”

People who kill or injure others in self-defense, called “legitimate defense” here, are often investigated for homicide. But Guido said she has never heard of a case in which the perpetrator has been convicted and spent time in prison.

“It’s usually very clear after investigating the scene and talking to witnesses whether it was self-defense, and we inform the judge handling the case,” Guido said.

San José province recorded 98 killings in the first six months of the year; Limon had 39; Alajuela, 22; and Puntarenas, 21, according to OIJ.


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