Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Costa Rica: Gunmen Rob Riverboat Carrying Passengers, Staff Destined for Tortugero, All Valuables Stolen

According to http://www.ticotimes.net, on Monday morning (December 9) three gunmen wearing black ski masks took over a tourist riverboat headed for La Pavona in Tortugero on the northern Caribbean coast. The pirates robbed seven passengers aboard the riverboat, although upwards of fourteen persons were actually robbed of all of their belongings.

The gunmen robbed their victims of cash, cellphones, watches, cameras, and at least one electronic tablet from the tourists visiting Costa Rica from the US, Spain and Switzerland. Exact values for the stolen goods and cash have yet to be totaled.

The thieves intercepted the vessel as it slowed to pass through a shallow curve in one of the area’s famous canals.

Rebeca Gómez, manager of Laguna Lodge, which operated the tour, told THE TICO TIMES that the gunmen ordered the boat to stop and the captain beached the vessel on a sandbar. When the assailants ordered the visitors to hand over their valuables, the tour guide told the guests to cooperate. No one was injured.

Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) Guápiles Regional Delegation Director Josué Bravo said that the gunmen were likely locals. After the robbery, they fled into a part of the marshes that is difficult to access. To date, none of the suspects have been taken into custody.

The remote town of Tortuguero sits near a national park, famous for its sea turtles and other wildlife. The area's isolation is part of its charm but also a hindrance to Tortuguero’s meager police force. 

COMMENT: Ms. Gómez said she and several other hoteliers in Tortuguero were angry at the lack of resources allocated to the police force there, as crime has risen in recent years.

Several Tortugero residents and business owners contacted The Tico Times Monday and Tuesday expressing concern that crime was destroying their community. 

Gómez said that several tourist-based businesses and community members planned to organize a meeting early next week to draft a letter demanding more police support and resources. “We’re really concerned about the safety of our clients."

All of our readers should be cognizant of the fact that the criminal threat in Costa Rica has been classified as "High" by the US Department of State, which is the second highest threat level on a four-tier scale of "Critical, High, Medium and Low."

In the last ten years tourists and travelers have frequently been victims of disappearances, armed robbery, rape, assault, homicide and larceny. Consequently, I urge all visitors to have a well-honed sense of personal security awareness and realize that violent crime doesn't always happen to "someone else."

Visitors to Costa Rica should realize that becoming a crime victim is a real possibility, which is why I offer the following advice:

1. Always register your foreign itinerary with your appropriate foreign affairs agency so they know you're in the country;

2. Always subscribe to international medical treatment and evacuation coverage before leaving home in the event you are injured or become ill. To locate an underwriter, go to: http://insuremytrip.com;

3. Never carry more than $100 in cash;

4. Carry a moderately-priced, "point-and-shoot" with a a good zoom lens that will not be a disaster if it is stolen;

5. Leave the high-end SLRs at home;

6. If you must take an expensive camera or electronics abroad, consider insuring them with international coverage from http://www.safeware.com;

7. Take no expensive or expensive-looking jewelry to Costa Rica;

8. Always unnecessary credit/debit cards and your passport (carry only a photocopy of the identification page of your passport and your entry stamp into the country) in your hotel two-keyed safe deposit box and NEVER use "in-room" safes, as there is always a "back door for staff";

9. Never use an ATM that is located outside of a building; and

10. NEVER resist an armed robbery. Your property can be replaced. You can't. And many armed criminals will shoot you if you resist.  

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