Costa Ricans report increasing safety concerns; 2016 is set to become most violent year on record

December 21, 2016

Just over half of people in Costa Rica feel highly unsafe and think crime in the country has grown, according to a survey conducted by the University of Costa Rica (UCR), while police statistics show 2016 is on track to become the most violent year on record in Costa Rica.

UCR’s School of Statistics published results of a survey that found that 53.6 percent of respondents consider insecurity in the country to be high or very high. A third of them — 30.9 percent— say is threats to public safety are low, 9.3 percent say they are very low and 5.5 percent classify them as regular.

The sense of insecurity, at 57.7 percent, is more prominent among residents of urban areas, while 45.6 percent of people also feel unsafe in rural areas.

Safety concerns are also higher among people of high socioeconomic level, with 68.2 percent saying they feel highly unsafe. However, almost half of people —47 percent—  from the low socioeconomic levels also say they feel unsafe.

Women were slightly more likely than men to classify their safety concerns as very high or high (59.2 percent of women versus 55.1 percent of men).

UCR researchers also asked people if “they or any member of their family has been a victim of theft, robbery, or other crime in the last 12 months.” A total of 22.9 percent of people in urban areas said yes, as well as 17.8 percent of people in rural areas.

Despite these perceptions about crime, Ticos do not believe firearms are the solution. The survey found that only 5 percent of respondents said they own a gun and barely 12 percent have considered acquiring one in the past year.

Just over half of those surveyed —57.1 percent— said they would support a law ammendment to only allow police and other government officials own a firearm.

UCR conducted its survey of 1,059 people across the country and the investigation has a margin of error of 3 percent.

Crime figures on the rise

The perception of insecurity detected by the UCR research coincides with data from the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) released Monday. The OIJ warned that 2016 is set to become the country’s most violent year in history, surpassing 2015.

OIJ Operations Director Michael Soto said at a news conference that, as of Monday, the OIJ has recorded 555 murders so far this year. That’s two less than the total number of homicides recorded in 2015. As of last week, the police had registered 11,245 reports of robberies across the country in 2016.

Most of them — 5,903 — occurred in the province of San José, followed by 1,253 in Alajuela, 1,065 in Heredia, 1,003 in Limón, 839 in Cartago, 688 in Puntarenas and 494 in Guanacaste.

Saturday seem to be the preferred day of the week for criminals, as OIJ reported that most of these robberies — 1,840— occured that day. Friday was the second most dangerous day with 1,763 robberies reported.

The majority of victims, 64.2 percent, were men, although Soto noted that “this figure represents people who filed a complaint,” and not necessarily the total number of people who were victims of crimes.

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