QCOSTARICA – The risk of having your belongings stolen while you are in the traditional traffic congestion in the Circunvalación and La Uruca continues.
However, the well-known method of ‘Quiebra Ventanas’, the smash and grab method of breaking the side window and running away had almost disappeared completely, say the authorities.
The Organismo de Investigación Judicial (OIJ) warn about the new techniques used by criminals to snatch belongings from vehicles.
Now, the groups walk between the prey vehicles, and when they see an item of interest they snatch it up, taking advantage of the red traffic lights and open or slightly open windows, to put their hand in or even half torso, to grab and run.
“They take advantage of the red light of the traffic light and put their hand or even half of their body in,”
“They snatch cell phones, bags and laptops,” says Sergio Richmond, Investigation Officer of the Assault Section of the OIJ.
“They flee among the cars and easily manage to escape,” adds Richmond.
This modality of theft continues to occur more frequently in Los Hatillos, the section of the Circunvalacion with tremendous traffic congestion caused by the traffic signals and La Uruca, in the area of the Monumento al Agua, however, it would not be alien to other areas of the metropolitan area.
The main recommendation is not to leave objects in sight, not even on the floor or under the seats, and preferably keep the windows closed. Also recommended is to watch the people walking between vehicles, looking for opportunities.
Asalto por rebateo
The theft of items from vehicles caught in traffic congestion is only one way. Criminals also take advantage of people’s confusion to steal belongings.
In December, an increase in these crimes was seen, a trend that has remained constant in the first quarter of the new year.
In January, February, and March, 25 monthly complaints were registered for ‘asalto por rebateo’, which also affects people on public roads.
Richmond did not specify the number of criminals detained for committing the assaults, but assured that investigations are ongoing and that the Fuerza Publica (National Police) makes arrests, catching people ‘in flagranti’, the Latin legal expression which means ‘at the very moment a crime is committed’.
Bus users victims
The other common form of ‘asalto por arrebato’ is directed at the thousands of bus users.
“Criminals take the advantage of surprise. People are in their daily lives”, describes Richmond.
In San José, criminals get into crowds and lines at bus stops, snatch cell phones and bags, and blend in with people walking by. By not being vigilant, the victims hardly manage to identify the assailant who is lost in the crowd.
The majority of cases are registered in the Carmen and Hospital districts, in the central canton of San José, where the majority of bus stops are concentrated.
The days with the highest incidence are Monday and Friday when the number of passengers tends to increase during mornings, afternoons, and evenings. The average is at least one complaint per day.
Outside the capital, the ‘asalto por arrebato’ changes, where two people on a motorcycle target victims at the bus stop, one snatching what they can, while the driver makes the getaway.
Similar cases also tend to occur on weekends in parks, while people are enjoy the day and space with their families.
What can you do?
The OIJ asks victims to file a complaint. Their offices are 24/7.
As a preventive measure, to avoid becoming a victim, the OIJ recommends:
- Do not carry the cell phone in the back pocket
- Keep bags forward and securely fastened.
- In crowded places, do not take out to use your cell phone
- Are always attentive to your surroundings, such as to the people around you and your property
- Have the characteristics of your cellphone and IMEI, the unique identification number for each cellular device, handy for making a report. Don’t know it? dial *#06# on the cell phone to retrieve it. The IMEI is used by operators to identify stolen cell phones and prevent subsequent activation.