San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Crime and Fear Are Up

The number of households affected by crime has almost doubled in the last 11 years, according to a new study.


The National Statistics and Census Institute (INEC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) released statistics on Thursday that showed the number of households in which at least one family member had been a victim of a crime within the last year rose from 15 percent to almost 28 percent from 1997 to 2008.


As the rate of victimization has increased, though, the percentage of citizens who report those crimes has fallen to 23 percent, from 27 percent in 1997, the last year a comparable study was conducted.


Home robberies represented nearly half of all crimes in 1997, but accounted for only a fifth this year, affecting 11 percent of the households surveyed.


Robberies and assaults on the street, however, went up from 20 percent of all crime to 30 percent.


Wealthier and more-educated households were almost twice as likely to be targets of crime as poorer and less-educated ones. Families with incomes in the upper 20th percentile as well as those in which the head of the house were more educated were almost twice as likely to be victims of crime than the lower fifth (37 to 20 percent, in both cases), although poorer households were more likely to be victims of violent crimes.


Seventy percent of crimes were committed in theCentral Valley, down from 77 percent over a decade ago. The Atlantic region, meanwhile, almost doubled its share of crime in the country, from 6 to 11 percent.


Crimes were 37 percent more likely to be violent in the Central Valley than in theAtlantic.


While the study’s directors highlighted these and other findings, Johnny Madrigal, a statistics professor at theUniversityofCosta Rica, said the failure of victims to report crimes engenders the widespread sense of insecurity among Ticos today. Much of this is due to citizens’ lack of faith in the police, he said, but that citizens still need to act.


“Every time more crimes are committed, fewer crimes are reported,” he said. “When victims don’t report their crime, they harbor the anger inside.”


Madrigal, however, was careful to qualify the rates of crime victims within the public perception of crime. “There’s fear, and there’s victimization. Those are two different things.”


UNDP Program Coordinator Lara Blanco said that households were surveyed among those who’d lived in the country for at least six months. Comparable statistics for victimization of tourists were not available.


Regionally, Costa Rica’s violent crime rate is much lower than its neighbors, but its rate of robberies is higher. While robberies have gone down slightly recently, drug-related infractions have increased significantly.


UNDP also released a statement that Costa Rica scored 0.847 in the Human Development Index, ranking the country seventh regionally and 50th worldwide.


Blanco said Costa Rica’s score, considered high human development, ranks 25th in life expectancy at 78.6 years and 42nd for its adult literacy rate at 95.8 percent. Iceland notched a rating of 0.968, putting it first out of the 179 countries in the rankings. Sierra Leone came in last at 0.329.





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