Around 6 a.m. on December 28, Paula Zumbado left a resort in Playa Guiones to find her car. She left it parked alongside the hotel, but it was no longer there. It was stolen just a few hours prior. A month later, the young architect still has no news of the vehicle.
In the six years Zumbado has lived in Nosara, she says she has never seen as much crime as now. “I admit, the robbery left me completely dumbfounded, because in Nosara we are a community and you don’t walk around thinking they are going to rob you. Things have gotten worse,” she says.
And she’s right. In 2019, Nosara had 128 reports of theft, the highest rate of crime in the district in the last 10 years, according to data from the Judicial Investigation Police. This makes Nosara the district in the canton with the second highest number of reports of crime, after Nicoya with 453 cases.
Through Facebook groups like “Nosara Classified”, many residents in the last few months have reported robberies at businesses, theft of personal items from cars and armed assaults.
The last exposed case was on January 19 when the Blue Garza supermarket was robbed, as well as the STIHL agency, 500 meters from Playa Garza.
The owner of the supermarket says the thieves entered the business at dawn, breaking down the doors and stealing liquor, personal items, security cameras and money. At STIHL, they took all the construction machinery and agricultural equipment they had for sale.
“When we arrived the following day, the place was in total disarray and there was almost nothing left. They took every valuable they could see. We had security and we were always sure to close the doors. It left an impact on us,” says the supermarket owner, who asked not to be identified.
According to data analyzed by The Voice, the most common crime in 2019 in Nosara was theft without the use of violence, followed by violent theft.
The criminal code says that theft is punished by between one month and three years in jail depending on the value of the objects stolen. Violent theft carries a sentence of between six months and 15 years in jail, depending on the degree of violence used.
“I can’t say I feel unsafe in Nosara, but it’s not the same town as before,” Zumbado said. “After the robbery, I borrowed a four-wheeler to get around town and was afraid that it might get stolen too. I started to get a little paranoid.”
According to data from the last two years, the crime rate increases during peak tourist season. Last year, the worst month for crime was Abril, the month when holy week vacations occur. The OIJ received 19 reports of theft. November and December had a combined 31 reports.
Crime has Been on the Rise
President of the Nosara security committee Mariju Rovira says crime is growing, but it didn’t happen overnight.
“Before, robberies usually happened at tourist homes while they went out to eat or see the sunset. In 2015 we started to host several workshops so that owners of rental homes would understand the problem and add security guards at their properties,” she said.
In fact, 2015 saw the second highest rate of crime of the decade with 124 reports. Rovira says that in 2015 the committee joined forces with the police to launch awareness campaigns for tourists and residents in the district.
“Thieves used to work from between 5pm and 10pm, which is when families weren’t home. We informed people about additional security measures and police officers started to do more rounds and conduct more operations at those times. The results were satisfactory,.” Rovira said.
Data back the claim up. In 2016, the number of reported crimes fell to 78, almost half the previous year. But, in 2017, it started to rise again, above all the number of thefts.
Low Police Presence
According to Nosara Police Chief José Ángel Gómez, Nosara normally has 23 police officers, 13 of whom are part of the national police force and 10 who belong to the tourist police.
Officers work in shifts. In each shift of 12 hours, there are only five police on duty, two on car patrol, one in the police station and two the beach.
The officials cover the area from Ostional to Garza, which includes Nosara.
During holy week and for half of December, the national police force assigns two additional units to the area: the migration police and the operations support force, which specializes in motor vehicle operations.
Gómez recognized there has been an increase in crime in the area in recent months and believes that it is due to new construction projects that attract “total strangers” to the district. But, he says, his department is already performing more operations and awareness campaigns near the most vulnerable areas, such as roads and homes near the coast.
President of the security committee, Mariju Rovira, says the low number of police officers during each shift “makes Nosara much more vulnerable.” That’s why her organization will try to speak with Public Security Minister Michael Soto to evaluate the possibility of increasing the number of cops.
The committee has also installed ten security cameras in Nosara to improve vigilance in crime-ridden areas. They plan to install ten more this year.
Meanwhile, the community has created Whatsapp groups that alert people to when alarms go off or strange noises are heard during the night. “One of our biggest recommendations is collective organization,” she said.
The crimes suffered by Zumbado and Garza are still unsolved. Zumbado says the last thing she heard from the OIJ was that they didn’t find any clues during the investigation, but that they will keep looking for evidence.
Gómez and Rovira both said reporting crime is urgent. That way the numbers will reflect the insecurity felt in the community and authorities will be able to react faster.