San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Security chief: Crime rate stabilizes after spike, drug trade on increase

The Public Security Ministry´s budget has nearly doubled since 2006. And after an eight-year upsurge, the ministry appears to have curtailed a swelling homicide rate – at least during 2009.

According to a yearly wrap-up communiqué, the Security Ministry´s budget has increased from ¢ 62 billion (more than $110.5 million) in 2006 to an anticipated ¢ 123 billion (more than $219.3 million) in 2010.

The money has been used for a 25 percent ministry-wide base salary increase and improvements to police training classes.

The ministry reports that homicides declined by 21 percent from October through December 2009 when compared to the same time period in 2008.

Between January and November 2009 the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) recorded 162 murders, about a 10 percent drop from the 180 homicides recorded from January through November of 2008.

Since 2000, homicides per 100,000 people had jumped from six to a record high of 11 in 2008. Security experts believe 10 homicides per 100,000 citizens per year to be a glass ceiling that should never be broken, and some have criticized the Security Ministry for allowing murders to reach that point. The global average of homicides per 100,000 people is nine, according to the United Nations Development Program.

The government also reported that home and vehicle robberies and assaults also fell compared to last year.

However, officials have expressed concern over a recent spike in drug trafficking through Costa Rica. As the Mexican government boosts its efforts to expel drug cartels from Mexico, trafficking has ballooned throughout Central America as gangs increasingly compete for control throughout the isthmus.

Costa Rica has been used as a shipping and storage point for drugs that hail largely from Colombia and are en route to the United States.

From the onset of 2006 until November 2009, officials confiscated close to 93,000 kilograms of cocaine, nearly 700,000 doses of crack and 13,075 kg of marijuana, according to the news release. They discovered and seized more than 6 million marijuana plants growing on national territory.

All told, the government took possession of more than ¢ 561 billion ($1 billion) worth of drugs.

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