Teachers who took to the streets to protest their  non-payment of salaries have been targeted by petty street thieves and pickpockets or carteristas in Spanish.

The Fuerza Pública (police) confirmed 162 arrests (La Nacion) made during the protest marches in San José that began on May 5.

1044398_206872886132948_1804686858Police have been vigilant during the protests in many communities througout the country, with the greatest concentration in San José, as they are aware of the petty criminals or scoundrels (sinvergüenzas in Spanish) taking advantage of the mass protests.

Purses, wallets, cellular phones, cameras and even tablets are among the favourite items by the scoundrels, according to José Juan Andrade, the head of the Fuerza Pública.

Although pickpocketing is becoming more common during mass gatherings, it can occur anywhere, anytime, while strolling the Bulevar (Avenida Central) or the La Sabana park.

Avoiding the carteristas:
Unfortunately, not all are honest, and it takes only one person to ruin an outing. Whether you’re traveling or venturing into a crowded place or an event near home, taking a little care to guard your valuables can help to keep your belongings as your own.

Here is our list of some things you can do to avoid being pocketed in Costa Rica:

  1. Always store valuables in a front pocket or a secret pocket. Make sure that the bulge of your wallet, cell phone, etc. doesn’t show, using an extra long or oversized t-shirt hides the pockets
  2. Avoid walking through large crowds. OK, hard to do if you are protesting, but the advice stands at all other times, especially walking through areas of the Coca Cola, with narrow streets and crowds all over, or the Central Market, heck, even the Avenida Central during futbol (soccer) games.
  3. Touching or fiddling with the pocket where you carry your belongings tells the pickpocket where you carry your valuables.
  4. Refrain from rummaging through your wallet or counting money in public.
  5. Never hand money to street people, unless you have loose change in your pocket.
  6. Shorten the strap on any purse or bag or camera, etc. you carry.
  7. Whenever you are going out to a public place, only take what you need or can afford to lose.
  8. Blend in. This is a difficult one for foreigners. We stand out. We look different. We dress different. We walk different. But, I found being fluent in Spanish helps with the blending in.
  9. Don’t make yourself an easy target. Walking a  brisk pace, pretending you know where you are going and sometimes having a mean look or demeanor (in your body language especially), making yourself a difficult target – can help.

Use the comments section below for your advice or  share your pickpocketing in Costa Rica story.