San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Report: Cost of homicide in Costa Rica at $60 million in 2010

A report on crime and judicial statistics by the non-governmental organization, Jurisis Victomologia, found that homicides in 2010 cost Costa Rica ₡30 billion ($60 million). Additionally, only 1.6 percent of complaints that went through the judicial process last year resulted in prison sentences – the highest rate of criminal impunity in Costa Rica’s history.

Juan Diego Castro, director of Jurisis Victomologia, summed up the findings: “For the second consecutive year we are in the international club of countries with rates of malicious homicides in the double digits. According to the World Health Organization when this phenomenon occurs in a country it is just before an epidemic of violence.”

The study used a matrix of direct and indirect costs of criminal activities to quantify the cost of certain crimes, said Luis Rivera, the economist who headed the study. Direct costs include costs to the victim of property or medical attention, the costs of controlling crime and opportunity costs such as lost productivity. Indirect costs include quality of life costs, effects on the business climate in the country and public trust in institutions.

The estimates used to quantify the costs of crime, Rivera said, were conservative. The study revealed only “the tip of the iceberg.”

“The judicial situation is terrible,” Castro said. “The rise of impunity continues its upward tendency. Of the 145,284 complaints presented in the courts last year only 3,856 resulted in sentences. From 1998 to 2010 there has been an increase of 115 percent in criminal complaints.”

2010 saw 506 homicides in Costa Rica, according to the report, of which only 76 resulted in sentences – a rate of impunity of 85 percent. Those numbers combined with the numbers for other crimes reveal, according to the report, an overall impunity rate of 98.4 percent.

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