A Costa Rican poice officer packs destroyed hand-guns and assault rifles seized during police raids at the Cultural Plaza in San Jose, Costa Rica, Dec. 2, 2005.
A Costa Rican poice officer packs destroyed hand-guns and assault rifles seized during police raids at the Cultural Plaza in San Jose, Costa Rica, Dec. 2, 2005.

SAN JOSE - Costa Rica announced on Thursday a reduction in murders and an increase in the confiscation of illegal weapons as it put into force a law that tightens gun controls.

"Up to today we've had 201 murders in the country, which sounds like a lot but if we compare it to last year, we have 47 less," Security Minister Michael Soto said at a ceremony in the capital San Jose.

"This is great progress," he said, adding that 67 percent of murders are committed with firearms.

The security ministry has seized 863 guns so far this year, 34 more than in the same period last year.

"These weapons can take someone's life, they can be used in a crime against property," said Soto.

The Central American country saw a spike in its murder rate between 2012 and 2017, reaching 12.1 per 100,000 inhabitants, according to the police.

That number dropped slightly to 11.7 in 2018 but that was still more than twice the global average of 5.3 in 2015, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

However, it is considerably lower than the 2017 average of 22 in Latin America and the Caribbean, the most violent region in the world according to an Inter-American Development Bank study from last year.

Soto spoke at a ceremony in which new gun control laws came into effect that increase punishments for the illegal purchase of a weapon and for individuals or businesses that fail to report the theft or loss of a firearm.

"Every effort made to regulate or educate in relation to gun control is a victory for our society," said President Carlos Alvarado.