It couldn't have happened to nicer folks......
- Things usually go great here in Costa Rica, but when they don't there is often a lesson involved. My lovely tenants, a couple from Switzerland, went off on the bus to Puntarenas on Friday. They stored their backpack in the overhead rack.
When they arrived, no backpack. Gone: Zeiss binoculars, Minolta camera, other valuable stuff. They are super upset.
Moral: these robbers probably have a milk run with this type of robbery. Get on bus. Take backpack at next stop. Catch bus back to San Jose. Do it again.
DON'T STOW VALUABLES OUT OF YOUR SIGHT. BE EXTREMELY CAREFUL AT THE BUS TERMINALS, ESPECIALLY COCA COLA TERMINAL WHICH IS NOTORIOUS. Look out for people seeking to talk with you or ask for a "match." It is often a diversion. Carry any very valuable cameras, money, passports, etc. on your person. These kind of thefts are easy to do.
The robber preys on recognizable foreigners. Don't let it be you. Alexandra Lancaster, The Alexi Company, 268-3672
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- --- In CostaRicaLiving@yahoogroups.com, alexandra lancaster
> Get on bus. Take backpack at next stop. Catch bus back toSan Jose. Do it again.
Anybody know where to buy those nifty little explosive packets of
red ink that banks put in packages of money? Make them available
here in CR, so we can put them in our luggage!
- Barry, in reply to your suggestion about using red dye
packets to indelibly mark the perpetrators of the
heinous crime of stealing luggage from buses I
replied: "But who would look for the red stains,
Barry?" I thought this very succinctly conveyed the
thought that the local police could care less about
looking for someone with red stains on their hands and
trying to ascertain the origin of said stains. Our
moderator rejected my post as being a one-liner that
contributed nothing new to the discussion. It is my
feeling that it DID add something new, by raising the
very relevant question as to who would take action
after the packet exploded and marked the perpetrator
with the dye. Since it is very well known that the
Costa Rican police are really not at all interested in
investigating crimes of this sort, I thought the
question was relevant and could stand on its own two
legs. The moderator suggested that I expand the simple
question into a paragraph in order to get it posted.
That is the reason you had to read this entire
paragraph in order for me to ask the simple, but
pertinent question: "But who would look for the red
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- I use a small pack which I keep on my lap and if I use my larger one
it is secured with good locks and then I use a cable type bicycle lock
to fasten it to the overhead rail. If I get off the bus at a rest stop
I take it with me and if I have any luggage stored in the
I will get off the bus at every stop to insure my luggage is not
by mistake. This may seem a little excessive but arriving once at my
destination without my bag was an experience I never want to repeat.
- --- In CostaRicaLiving@yahoogroups.com, joe stastny <pep4136@y...>
> "But who would look for the red stains,-- In CostaRicaLiving@yahoogroups.com, joe stastny <pep4136@y...>
>I was suggesting the red dye as a chiste... unfortunately, joke or
> "But who would look for the red stains,
not, in many circumstances, you have a real point here.
What's happening seems to be centered around a simple fact - "Who
cares?" Who will care enough to spend the time to motivate the
police into action? After losing a car stereo, I filed the denuncia,
then put enough pressure on the lower level investigators that the
head investigator for the district got on the case - they eventually
found the thief, but the stereo had been sold twenty minutes after
it was taken. (Fortunately, the local fence was able to sell it back
for $60 - much less than the cost of replacing it new)
You can always say "We shouldn't HAVE to motivate the police into
action." You're right. Move back to Kansas, where the police are
proactive. This culture is what it is - deal with it.
In the meantime, several other things are now happening here.
Somehow, mysteriously, the "old solution" is occasionally used -
theives that are caught may end up with bullet holes in their feet.
No one quite knows how it happened, but there you have it. In a
more civilized move, prominent merchants here may have been active
in stirring up the local police into defensive action. Police
patrols appear to have been increased, now driving by our place (and
through all of Puerto Viejo, I'm told) every hour or so, at random
For myself, I chose to give up completely on the bus system and
terminals. I just don't take them. A very dependable cab
driver, that people in the Escazu area have been using for ten
years, will take me from San Jose to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca for
$90. And, it's well worth it to me. I didn't like the feeling of
being surrounded by fear, clinging to my belongings, literally
waiting to be robbed, just to save a few dollars. I just had to stop
nickeling-and-diming my life. We also bought a car. Those are
My solution doesn't change the bus terminal problem, I know.
How about the "merchant association" in and around the bus terminal
(s) acting in concert to pressure the police, as seems to have been
successful here in Puerto?
How about passengers getting pro-active, and pressuring the police -
say, through ARCR?
How about preparing a dummy press release, that describes the bus
terminal situation and the petty thievery - and instead of releasing
it to the press, release it instead to ICT, making ICT believe it
WAS released internationally? Even to the point of providing some
credibility for the possibilities of such a release - I've already
constructed a database of 250 newspapers in the US and Europe,
releases have gone out and articles have already been published
about The Bridge. Then suggest to ICT that if this dummy release HAD
gone out, it would have damaged the tourism industry here. "What can
ICT do?" as they react - demand that patrols and security be stepped
up at airports, bus terminals, etc.
In short, get proactive. Consider that this is a game - play it, and
play it well. Play it to win in the name of public safety.
Then, provide an alternative to those who have no way to eat without
theivery. Training, jobs... that's what Nanci and I are doing in
Puerto, in the small, one Indian family at a time, because that's
all we CAN do with our own four hands. We're also tracking down the
agencies and fundacions who are involved in similar activities...
As to the red dye thing... there are also 120DB audio alarms that
can't be shut off easily once they're triggered... the fellow who
posted his solution of tying everything together... get a can of
pepper spray... how about a dead fish in a dummy bag...
- There are a couple of things I have learned about losing things here.
One is that if my information is correct - by law the police will not
investigate anything below a certain dollar value. I think the number
was around $500.00 USD, but I am not sure. Now, in USA, they will come
out if you report a stolen bike that is below this level, but your
chances of recovery are pretty poor in my opinion and it isn't like they
put a special detective on it. Though I had enough things stolen over
the years in USA to lose count - I can not recall a single one EVER
We have lost a few things - two chainsaws over a period of time - our
cure? A concrete bodega for the tools, etc. They did catch the person
who did steal one of them - but the chainsaw was long gone. Oh well, the
cost of doing business... The miscreant doesn't have to worry about
stealing now - he is a guest in the local carcel.
We do have this thread periodicly and I suspect it does serve a purpose.
However, thieves focusing on tourist is about as common as rain - in
whatever part of the world you are in. It sort of goes hand in glove
with that when you travel in certain parts of USA, you can expect speed
traps that will target out-of-towners. If you are not from here, the
local scum figure you will not follow up and fight for your stuff (or
money) since the cost to fight it is worse than the cost you will incur.
Yes, I count police who prey on out-of-towners as scum.
There are much worse places than Costa Rica for tourist of course, and I
would not punish the law abiding members of the tourism community here
by making a stink, many who are actually members of this group. Also, if
you think that the local police will change based on threats to the
tourism trade - I rather doubt it. But you might find that they will
respond REALLY slow if you ever need them.
What I do that is helping us is the following things - invite a
policeman to advise you on how to protect your stuff and what to do on
the bus. Then, if it fails - they will feel more morally obligated to
help - since they gave you bad advice. Believe me, it is true.
The other thing that I have accepted is this - if I have so much stuff
that I can't keep an eye on it - I have too much stuff and can afford to
lose some. If my possessions are causing me not to enjoy life, then I
will get rid of them. It is up to me to protect my stuff instead of
asking the police to retrieve it. Guess which one is easier? The thing I
am most thankful for is that normally in Costa Rica, those who want my
stuff, are not willing to threaten or take my life to get it. Guess what
I was concerned about in NJ?
- I didnt say effective guys. In my village, San Isidro de Heredia, until recently my police didnt even have money to put into their vehicle. Their central office is so scuzzy that it looks like the back end of a 7-ll where they store the beer cases and set the roach motels. If they need to write you a phone number, they have to send a kid out for a 2 cent piece of paper. They are handicapped by a severe lack of funds...did you notice that is what I am getting at?
When I have had to call them for a prowler, however, they have arrived in minutes.
When I had a drunk in my garden, they arrived in minutes but would not remove him, so gentle is this policing here. We lured him away with promises of better guaro down in the village.
Now, when I call them, they have a spiffy little mini car and arrive quickly, too. They hint at a need for tiny gifts to help their cause. I give them. The property taxes here are so ridiculously low that these municipal services have no funds, literally. They probably provide their own uniforms.
They are good natured and attempt to be helpful. I consider all the local guys my friends and we hug and salute on the street.
One time a neighbor found his water pump! yes, water pump, missing from its hole in the garden. Sometime later we found the pump at the police station. They gave it to us. Another time, you may find the same cops watching soap operas with the television that went missing from your home the month before. This is charmingly and maddenly chaotic. It may not be different in New Jersey but it is more subtle. I have learned a cosmic sense of humour down here.
Unlike Fred, I love my material things and don't want other people to own them without my permission. Call me possessive. I lock up money in a safe, I allow only my trusted maid Katia into my private quarters so that can be no mistake who pinched my grandma's earrings. I never leave other small valuables lying around the house.
I had 30 chickens and with the last gardener, I started noticing they were disappearing. By the time I caught on, he had cooked and eaten them all. He blamed it on the zorillos (weasels).
I called the cops. They are out now, looking for the weasels.
The weasels are down the street, catching a bus to Ciudad Quesada where they hope to
pinch something that belongs to Fred.
This is the moronic, lovely, chaotic life in Costa Rica. It is better than anyplace else I have lived.
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- --- In CostaRicaLiving@yahoogroups.com, Fred Morgan <fmorgan@f...>
>- by law the police will notnumber was around $500.00 USD
> investigate anything below a certain dollar value. I think the
Didn't know that. I'll ask my attorney.
> Yes, I count police who prey on out-of-towners as scum.Haven't heard any instances of this here.
> would not punish the law abiding members of the tourism community
> by making a stink, many who are actually members of this group.I think I wasn't clear. It's not the tourist we want to stop. It's
those who prey on the tourists...
> many of whom are members of this groupthe
> Also, if
> you think that the local police will change based on threats to
> tourism trade - I rather doubt it.I don't expect the local police to change based on tourism. What has
already been proven to happen here is... the locals here have
changed, based on calls from their superiors in San Jose.
The superiors in San Jose have changed, based on calls from very
influential members of the "merchants association" here and
their "friends" in San Jose.
The local police DO respond to calls from San Jose.
My suggestion is... get the ICT to join in. THEY are the ones trying
to bring in money via tourism.
> But you might find that they willYou're right about that. There's a 50-year-old ex-pharmacist here
> respond REALLY slow if you ever need them.
who got a wild hair across - something - and has sued the government
and the police for - something. He finds relationships with the
police rather difficult.
However, with the approach I'm suggesting, the pressure will come
from the ICT, not from me. The objective of this would be to create
a large-scale change in policy, rather than to protect my personal
> invite aTHIS is a VERY good idea for the personal protection side.
> policeman to advise you on how to protect your stuff and what to
> do on a bus. Then, if it fails - they will feel more morally
> obligated to
> help - since they gave you bad advice. Believe me, it is true.
> if I have so much stuffAfter our own hearts... we gave away the entire contents of a 2,300
> that I can't keep an eye on it - I have too much stuff
square foot house, occupied for 35 years, to a center for abused
children... and came down here with two suitcases each.
> [not willing to take my life to get my stuff] Guess whatAmen.
> I was concerned about in NJ?
> This is the moronic, lovely, chaotic life in Costa Rica. It isbetter than anyplace else I have lived.
Oh I agree, i am from Texas, and never in my life have i felt good
about seeing a policeman come my way... until costa rica. many people
do not understand there's a difference between your municipal fuerza
and the police that have arresting powers. most likely your municipal
police DO NOT have arresting powers, but in fact their function is to
MEDIATE. this is great. i read the government papers (online) from the
defensoria of the habitantes which had statistics on denuncias and
crime. it was found that MOST legal issues involving the police
derived from MISUNDERSTANDINGS. logically then, the answer is to have
a police force whose primary duty is to mediate! it's great, isn't it?
wouldn't change it for the world.
- Ah, Alexandra,
You forget, I have work crews. If you saw what my workers look like, you
or any weasel (not implying you are one) would think twice, or several
times more about getting sticky fingers. Since we have about 15,000+
trees that have to be trimmed with machetes... I assure you people have
to leave things out for a while before anyone builds up enough courage
to try to lift something.
One of the things I did here in Ciudad Quesada is, after my Spanish
improved to the point no one would misunderstand, explain sorrowfully at
the local soda that people should not surprise me on dark streets, or
worse yet, where I do not expect them (like my house) because I might
react. And if I reacted, it would be very sad. Afterwards I would visit
them in the hospital and that it would surely make us both very sad for
all of the time they would spend there. It wouldn't be deliberate, oh
no, it would just comes from being from that very violent place called
USA - which they of course have heard stories about. And since, as Alec
pointed out, I have a rather formidable appearance at times, word has
This is not to say I don't like my stuff - it just says that we make
sure we don't have more than we can keep in a secure place. By the way,
here the police do seem to be pretty effective, and some of them are
almost as large as I am - and they don't seem to go in for donuts
either. I would say Ciudad Quesada is determined not to have problems
like are common in the big city. It amazes me at times how many police
are on the streets.
I ,like you Alexandra, find this an absolutely wonderful place to live -
and just like USA - there are the good, they bad and the ugly. By the
way, out here we don't have weasels, but tolomucos. (Tiras) I have seen
4 of the non-human kind so far.
- I agree with Barry. Get proactive with the established organization that do have political and persuasive power within the larger community.
I was pickpocketed in Amsterdam some years ago. This was very traumatic for me. My response was to make a police report, cancel my credit cards immediately and then to cancel a return trip and a reservation to stay at the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam that was planned for me and an uncle several weeks later.
My final response was to write a letter to the manager of the Hilton to advise him of my cancellation and the reason why. I included the suggestion that he bring pressure on the local police through his membership in the local chamber of commerce or tourism council to do a better job with the itinerant pickpockets who infest most tourist venues in Amsterdam and all over Europe. I did receive a nice letter in reply.
My dos colones.
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Some good thoughts (but I doubt the ICT sees this as a prime
directive) - there is no doubt that some community involvement can
assist reduce the petty theft problem here. There is no doubt that
if you are EXPECTING a problem a visit with the neighborhood cops to
educate them on the expected threat is of value. There is no doubt
that local neighborhood/barrio organizados do have an effect. There
is no doubt that improved street lighting deters casual thieves.
And dogs are good deterrents, high walls and nasty spikes slow the
ladrones down considerably and weapons of mass destruction when
wielded by trained afficionados of same could be effective (we just
need to find some). And the list goes on - increased police
presence, better protection of baggage and rentacars, community
beach guards, education etc.
There IS a problem here and it is one that has been faced by many
neighborhoods in every country as it has evolved. Talking to
someone the other day, they wrote it off as a systemic problem of
the haves vs the have nots. I hope that is not the case because if
so it will become worse.
I an not aware of any cohesive initiatives in the general direction
of improved overall security from Pacheco, the police or the ICT?
Is anyone aware of anything going on in the "bigger picture" of
P.S. with a proviso to all the non-resident readers on this board
that with a few precautions you CAN visit without any negative
incidents - but it would be nice if we could find some new and more
effective ways to make those precautions reduced in the future.