An amazing video posted by online news daily CRHoy.com shows a car thief walk up to a Nissan D21 pick-up (or hard-body) truck, discreetly manipulate the lock on the driver’s side door to gain entry, jump behind the wheel, hotwire the vehicle, and speed off in just 20 seconds.
The incident occurred in the neighborhood of San Juan de Tibas, in the northern suburbs of San Jose, on August 4th at around 5:30 in the afternoon. The skill of the car thief has officials from the Organization of Judicial Investigations (Spanish initials: OIJ) in Costa Rica worried about the likelihood of an increase in car theft after their efforts in catching organized groups sent several individuals to prison.
Up until last year, the OIJ had estimated an overall drop in vehicle theft around Costa Rica, except in the City of Heredia and surrounding neighborhoods. In 2008, however, the situation had reached critical mass due to the wicked work of a crew that counted with about a dozen skilled thieves and associates. These thieves operated in and out of the Greater San Jose Metropolitan Area (Spanish initials: GAM), particularly in Santo Domingo and San Joaquin, in the province of Heredia. They also had car owners, who are quickly multiplying in Costa Rica, in Grecia, Palmares and San Ramon, province of Alajuela extremely worried about their prized possessions.
Once the OIJ dismantled the ring, eight members were prosecuted and altogether were sentenced to 92 years for 17 acts of grand theft auto in Costa Rica. The thieves were found living comfortably in Heredia, San Jose and La Garita, province of Alajuela. Then in 2010, the OIJ took down another crew that was suspected in 66 thefts in the southeast region of the GAM, and that was apparently lead by a Nicaraguan man. The rate of stolen cars substantially dropped since, but it is now beginning to pick up again.
According to a recent press release by the OIJ, car thieves are once again targeting Heredia. They operate in the late night and early morning hours, under the cover of darkness. They favor passenger cars that are parked outside; but, in the case of motorcycles, they do not think twice about entering the garage and simply rolling them out. One of the factors that car thieves enjoy about Heredia is that the city has multiple road access that connects to Alajuela and San Jose.
The OIJ asks car owners in Costa Rica to take appropriate measures to prevent theft, including:
- Using parking lots instead of curbside parking whenever possible, but do not turnover the car keys to parking attendants or car wash personnel who might copy the keys and gain information about where to find the car by running public record searches on the license plate.
- Change the locks on your car so that one key does not open all entry points; for example, get a different lock for the doors, the ignition, the trunk, etc.
- Try not to drive unaccompanied late at night. Carpool at all times if you can.
- Use electronic anti-theft systems that disable the vehicle and make them visibly conspicuous. Thieves know about these devices and are often discouraged by them.
- Ensure that your INS policy includes comprehensive coverage against theft.
- Reinforce your garage doors adequately.
- Be extra cautious if your used vehicle’s model ranges from 1990 to 1999; those cars are favored by thieves since chop-shop operators can quickly sell them for parts to auto repair centers across Costa Rica.
Article by Costa Rica Star