A spike in violent crimes and robberies in Costa Rica’s Northern Zone prompted Public Security Minister Gustavo Mata Vega on Friday to promise local residents an increased police presence in the area.
Mata visited the Alajuela cantons of Guatuso and Upala, and Tilarán, in Guanacaste. Locals in these northern communities are increasingly concerned by rising crime, particularly assaults, robberies, drug trafficking and cattle theft.
The spike in crime prompted the Public Security Ministry at the end of last year to increase the number of police officers and other resources in the area. The ministry also sent 12 additional motorcycles and 11 ATVs to increase patrols, specifically at the border with Nicaragua.
On Friday morning, residents in Guatuso urged the minister to step up patrols to stop drug trafficking and cattle theft. Mata promised more checkpoints on local roads and said he would return to the area in January to evaluate progress.
That afternoon, Mata met with city officials and citizens in Upala, who asked for better infrastructure at local police precincts.
Mata then traveled to Tilarán, where residents voiced concerns about a recent increase in drug trafficking, assaults and robberies of homes and businesses. The minister said he would send more officers and coordinate with Drug Control Police and Judicial Investigation Police to implement joint strategies to tackle the problem.
The Northern Zone’s crime wave has been a concern for over a year, but it was particularly nasty in August. During the weekend of Aug. 21-23 residents of San Carlos in Alajuela were hit by four violent robberies.
The first occurred in the early hours of Friday, Aug. 21, when an armed gang stole ₡3 million ($5,550) from a supermarket in Ciudad Quesada. That same day armed assailants also hit another supermarket in the nearby community of Cutris.
The next day, a gang attacked a pizzeria in Ciudad Quesada, making off with ₡500,000 ($925) in cash and personal belongings from the business and its patrons.
Also that Saturday, a family in the community of Cuestillas reported that a group of assailants entered their home during a party and stole ₡1.5 million ($2,700) in cash and appliances.
On Sunday, Aug. 23, five men wearing masks and wielding guns and knives forced their way into another home, injuring several family members. They took several appliances and ₡1 million ($1,850) in cash.
National Police officers so far have arrested three suspects in the Cuestillas case, and one in the Cutris supermarket case. Cops caught that suspect while he was driving a motorcycle that had been reported stolen the day before the assault.