San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Limón Cracks Down on Crime

Hand-in-hand with renovating Limón’s tired infrastructure, authorities are looking to revive the Costa Rican Caribbean port city’s tranquillity.

President Oscar Arias on Thursday celebrated some small successes in the initiative, including a drop in rates of homicides, property damage and domestic violence in a part of the country that traditionally reports higher crime rates.

From 2008 to 2009, domestic violence cases dropped from 232 to 147 (36 percent).

During that same time period, property damage decreased from 460 to 424 (7.8 percent).

Thirty-six fewer crimes may seem like a small number, but the downward trend shows that police actions are having an effect, according to a press release from the Public Security Ministry.

The number of homicides also fell, according to the release.

“We have had more than 55 days without a homicide,” said Celso Gamboa, deputy prosecutor in Limón. “Targeted killings related to drug use are gone. The local sales by cartels have been cut off and most of the offenders are in custody. Far from being a lost cause, this battle is being won.

Andrés Shum León, who owns Cocorí Hotel Bar and Restaurant between the ports of Moin and Limón, has noticed a difference.

“Each day there is improvement,” said the lifelong resident. “Many of the famous gang leaders are in jail, and it’s safer.”

In fact, León said he feels safer in Limón than the Costa Rican capital of San José.

“Here (in Limón), I don’t have to be worried about car jacking,” he said. “There’s no problem with people smashing your windows. In San José, there are professionals. Not here. Here, the only problem is with gangs.”

Janina Del Vecchio, public security minister, noted that authorities have seized 115 more weapons this year than last year and confiscated 14 boats that were linked to drug trafficking and wildlife violations.

Despite the recent improvements, Inter-Institutional Coordination Minister Marco Vargas said Limón still has some work to do before it can be considered a modern port community.

Vargas, who is spearheading an $80 million investment project to revitalize the city, reported that cases of extreme poverty are 1.3 percent higher in Limón than the rest of the country, unemployment is 1.4 percent higher in Limón, and course load for students over 15 is 1.3 percent lower.

In his presentation to public officials Thursday, Vargas said, “the transformation that Limón requires will only be achieved if improvement to citizen safety goes hand in-hand with social and economic development.”

–Chrissie Long


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