Not so Much
If you’re a criminal and considering relocation, Costa Rica is a very attractive destination. Residency laws are favorable, the standard of living is high and it’s unlikely you’ll be caught, less likely you’ll be prosecuted and almost impossible to be convicted.
The rights of the accused are paramount in Costa Rican law and most criminal cases never come to trial. The justice system has very limited resources to investigate or prosecute, and bribery and corruption frequently derail cases that do get traction.
A couple of years ago I was in Monteverde and a large crowd had gathered outside the tiny two desk police station. They were pounding the crap out of a small two door car with big rocks while the police watched. I asked what was going on and was told the following remarkable story.
Two men and a woman had come into the Monteverde area a couple of weeks earlier and had been targeting small hotels in the area. The woman would go in and ask to see a room and since the person at the desk was typically the only staff around they had to leave the office unattended to show it to her. The men would then come in and clear out the cash register, computers and anything else that wasn’t nailed down.
The three had been caught red handed by a group of locals the previous week and turned into the police. They were back on the street and robbed another small business the same day.
When they were caught, turned in and released a second time the people took justice into their own hands. I was relieved that I only saw the destruction of their car and missed what happened to the three thieves at the hands of the crowd since they had already been transported to the hospital.
Even the Police Stations Are Targets
Earlier this year I visited a small Guanacaste community where they had solved the problem of a group of young criminals who’d broken into nearly every home and building in town by dangling them by their ankles over a 200 foot drop off the edge of a bridge. They explained that if the break-ins continued the next time they wouldn’t be pulling them back up.
Apparently the last straw was when the police station was broken into and even though everyone for miles around knew exactly who the culprits were (they’d been selling most of the stolen goods back to the rightful owners) nothing was done. Apparently the identification was accurate because after the suspects had “their change shaken out” the crimes stopped.