TAMPA, Fla. — Recent reports show Costa Rica, generally considered a safe vacation spot, now has a climbing crime rate.
Those numbers and the recent murder of Tampa native Carla Stefaniak at an AirBnb in the country may lend weight to a perception that the country may no longer be a safe vacation destination.
However, the data behind those reports must be read with some perspective.
Stefaniak's father, Carlos Caicedo, said his 36-year-old daughter suffered an "absolutely violent death." Costa Rican authorities are currently holding Bismark Martinez, 32, in custody as the only suspect in the crime and a flight risk.
It's significant to note that Martinez was employed as a security guard at the AirBnb where Stefaniak was staying on her trip. His job was to help keep her safe; instead, he's awaiting murder charges.
Does this tragedy somehow correlate to less-safe conditions for tourists in the Central American nation? We broke down the numbers - see the video above.
Breaking down the numbers
The U.S. State Department's 2017 Crime and Safety Report on Costa Rica notes that the country's homicide rate hit a record high the previous year at 11.8 homicides per 100,000 people, continuing a three-year upward trend.
A report by the nonprofit Insight Crime indicates that that trend continued into 2017, with the number of homicides rising from 579 to 603 and the resulting homicide rate for the nation rising to 12.1 homicides per 100,000 people.
That percentage, in comparison, is higher than that of neighboring Panama, which saw a homicide rate of 10.3 per 100,000 in the same year.
But consider the Mexican state of Baja California, which has a population size similar to all of Costa Rica. There, the homicide rate is 63.1 per 100,000.
Comparing Costa Rica's numbers to those of U.S. cities also lends perspective. According to FBI crime statistics, Chicago, which has a population roughly the same as Costa Rica, saw its homicide rate in 2017 hover at 24.1, while San Juan, Puerto Rico's homicide rate came in at 25.5.
The reality is that Costa Rica still enjoys a reputation of stability and safety compared with other Central American countries, and thus is likely to remain an attractive tourist destination.
But travel experts advise that even the safest places carry risks.
"Just make sure you know the destination and identify some of the safe places to be, and identify the areas known for crime," AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins said.