Costa Rica’s top security official has called for a new government body that specializes in fighting organized crime and drug trafficking, amid concerns over rising violence levels.
In an interview published in Diario Extra, Costa Rica Security Minister Gustavo Mata proposed creating a joint unit between the country’s judicial branch and the police. The unit would investigate "every homicide" that is suspected of having links to drug trafficking and organized crime, he said.
Costa Rica's Attorney General's Office already has a unit that specializes in organized crime, but police are not doing enough to work with them in investigating homicide cases, he added.
Mata pointed to rising homicide levels in Costa Rica as incentive for creating such a security body. He said criminal groups battling over territory were primarily responsible for the violence.
According to data from Costa Rica’s Judicial Investigation Organization (OIJ), 2014 saw a 14 percent increase in homicides from the previous year. On average, an assault occurs every 38 minutes, a home robbery every 12 hours, a car theft every 2.5 hours, and a homicide every 18.5 hours, according to the OIJ.
InSight Crime Analysis
Mata’s proposal reflects rising concern among Costa Rican government officials over increased criminal activity in the country.
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Costa Rica has long been one of Central America’s bright spots, avoiding the rampant crime and violence of its Northern Triangle neighbors -- the countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. However, in recent years, Costa Rica has increasingly been used as a transit and storage zone for drugs. There have even been reports of Mexican cartels arming local gangs in the country, and that Northern Triangle street gangs, or “maras,” are establishing a presence there.
Costa Rican officials have taken previous steps to mitigate the negative effects of drug trafficking and criminal activity in the country. If implemented adequately, Mata's proposal could yet prove to be another useful tool in Costa Rica's ongoing battle to avoid the epidemic levels of violence seen elsewhere in Central America.