Here's the State Department's report on Crime in Costa Rica.
CRIME: Crime is increasing and tourists are frequent victims. Criminals roam freely day and night, and usually operate in small groups. While most crimes are non-violent, criminals, including juveniles, have shown a greater tendency in recent years to use violence and to carry handguns or shoulder weapons. U.S. citizens are encouraged to use the same level of caution that they would exercise in major cities or tourist areas throughout the world. Americans should avoid urban areas that are known to have high crime rates, should avoid deserted properties or undeveloped land, should walk or exercise with a companion, should avoid responding in kind to verbal harassment, and should bear in mind that resort areas popular with foreign tourists are also common venues for criminal activities. Local law enforcement agencies have limited capabilities and do not act according to U.S. standards, especially outside of San Jose.
In recent years, several Americans have been murdered in Costa Rica in urban, rural and resort locations. Many of the perpetrators have been arrested, and some convicted. Other assailants remain at large. U.S. citizens have been victims of sexual assaults both in cities and in rural areas. In many of these cases, the victim has known the assailant. There have been several sexual assaults, including one rape, by taxi drivers. Travelers should be careful to use licensed taxis, which are red and have medallions painted on the side. Licensed taxis at the airport are painted orange, rather than red. All taxis should have working door handles, locks, and meters (called "marias"), and passengers should not ride in the front seat with the driver. If the taxi meter is not working, a price should be agreed upon before the trip begins.
There have been reports that unsuspecting patrons of bars and nightclubs have been drugged and later assaulted or robbed. Americans should always be aware of their surroundings, and should not consume food or drinks they have left untended. Americans may find it safer to seek entertainment in groups to help avoid being targeted, especially in urban areas.
Although Americans have not been specifically targeted, there have been several kidnappings, including those of foreigners. Carjackings have also increased, and motorists have been confronted at gunpoint while stopped at traffic lights or upon arrival at their homes. Late model sport utility vehicles and high-end car models are popular with carjackers.
Travelers should purchase an adequate level of locally valid theft insurance when renting vehicles. One should park in secured lots whenever possible, and should never leave valuables in the vehicle. Thefts from parked cars commonly occur in downtown San Jose, at beaches, in the airport and bus station parking lots, and at national parks and other tourist attractions. A common ploy by thieves involves the surreptitious puncturing of tires of rental cars, often close to the car rental agency itself. When the travelers pull over, "good Samaritans" quickly appear to change the tire - and just as quickly remove valuables from the car. Drivers with flat tires are advised to change the tire themselves or drive to the nearest service station, and watch their valuables at all times. Travelers can reduce their risk by keeping valuables out of sight, not wearing jewelry, and traveling in groups. Travelers should also minimize travel after dark.
Money exchangers on the street have been known to pass off counterfeit U.S. dollars and local currency. Credit card fraud is on the rise. Both theft and 'number skimming' are common. Travelers should retain all their credit card receipts and check their accounts regularly to help prevent unauthorized use of their credit cards. Avoid using debit cards for point of sale purchases, as a skimmed number can be used to clean out an account.
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Costa Rican law requires that foreigners carry their passports on their persons at all times, and be able to demonstrate legal admission into the country through a valid entry stamp. Due to the high incidence of theft of passports, however, travelers are urged to carry their passport securely in an inside pocket. Travelers are also advised to keep a copy of their passport data page in a secure place to facilitate the issuance of an emergency replacement passport.
U.S. citizens can refer to the Department of State's pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad, for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402; via the Internet at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/,
or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.