QCOSTARICA — Every 11 minutes and 24 seconds, a Costa Rican is a victim of a crime. By October 3 of this year, the Organismo de Investigación Judicial (OIJ) – Judicial Investigation Agency – had reported 35,331 criminal acts, including thefts, robberies, assaults, vehicle tampering, and homicides.
Theft is the most significant type of crime, with over 12,000 cases reported.
Costa Rica has fewer reported crimes this year in comparison to the same period last year – 37,455 – but the crimes are more violent in nature.
Little big detail
The big difference or contrast between last year and this year is not the reduction in cases, but the increase in violence; a wave of violence without parallel in its history.
By October 3, the country registered 683 homicides, while for the same period last year, only 473 cases were recorded.
The worst of all is that the country has already reached a historical record in homicides and with three months to go before the end of the year, the projection of homicides is 900.
For example, the province of Limón already has a homicide rate of 35.3 per 100,000 inhabitants, a record higher than that of Mexico, reporting in 2022, 25.2 murders in the same number of residents.
If the Caribbean province were a separate country, statistics from the World Bank and InSight Crime suggest that it could rank as the third most dangerous in the Americas, behind Venezuela and Honduras. This analysis does not include Caribbean nations.
A week ago, four men were shot when they were near the old Calipso Hall in a vehicle in downtown Limón. In this case, authorities counted more than 100 point-blank shots.
The violence of this crime is reflective of a conflict between drug trafficking groups concerning territory and illegal drug transportation routes, which has resulted in the number of murders in the province rising from 118 to 166 between September 2022 and September 2023, an increase of 40%.
Given this situation, Costa Rican President Rodrigo Chaves proposed to the authorities of the Judiciary and the Legislative Assembly to accelerate several legal proposals, among them limits on the granting of precautionary measures, adapting the response of juvenile criminal justice, authorizing wiretapping for homicides and femicides, increased sanctions for the use of weapons, and extraditions.
Limit on the granting of precautionary measures
The aim is to limit the granting of precautionary measures, such as house arrest with electronic monitoring (ankle bracelets), only for crimes that carry penalties of less than four years in prison.
In this way, people with a criminal history of major crimes such as rape, drug trafficking, organized crime, and homicides, will not be able granted precautionary measures outside of prison.
Sicarios (hitmen) and minors
In this case, it is about adapting the response of juvenile criminal justice to the challenges of violent crime and organized crime.
The idea is that justice can address in a differentiated manner those matters related to organized crime in which (increasingly) minors participate, in addition to expanding the list of crimes where the statute of limitations is five years, incorporating those crimes considered serious, and include as grounds for provisional detention when a minor ‘represents a danger to society.
Communications Intervention or wiretapping
Telephone intervention is authorized for the crimes of simple homicide and femicide; Likewise, it is proposed that the Attorney General’s Office may request the intervention of communications.
In addition, it extends the period of the intervention to four months, with the possibility of two extensions up to a maximum of 1 year of intervention.
Increased sanctions for the use of weapons
The idea is to establish as an aggravating circumstance in crimes of illegal possession of weapons those cases in which the person possesses or carries a firearm that is registered in the name of a third party and that has been reported as lost or stolen.
On the other hand, the penalty will increase when that weapon has been used to commit a criminal offense or falls within any of the cases of organized crime or illicit association.
Extradition of Costa Ricans
It is a reform to the country’s Constitution to enable the extradition of Costa Rican people in cases of international drug trafficking or terrorism.