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Tourist Murders, Rising Crime Jeopardize Costa Rica’s ‘Safe’ Destination Reputation

The recent murders of Tom Cook and Carla Stefaniak in Costa Rica, combined with other murders, disappearances, and a general atmosphere of rising crime may be putting a crimp in the country's reputation as a safe destination.

An arrest has been made in the Stefaniak case (see picture), though her family has said they believe more people were involved in her murder than the Nicaraguan security guard who was taken into custody.

Stefaniak was just the latest in a string of violence against Costa Rican tourists. Two unidentified female travelers were found dead near Tortuguero National Park in August. One 31-year-old woman’s body was discovered with strangle marks around her neck, and a 25-year-old woman drowned after she was attacked by two men. Over the summer, a 19-year-old Canadian tourist was robbed and raped after a local tried to offer her a ride from San Jose to Puerto Viejo.

And in October, authorities said that Tom Cook, a 62-year-old “hippie” from Vermont, was murdered in Jaco, a surf town in Costa Rica after he went missing for two months.

Costa Rica has seen a rise in murders in 2012, and a record 603 people were killed in 2017. Meanwhile, authorities have said they’re forecasting an even higher number in 2018.

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