A group of as many as eight thieves, described as heavily armed and very professional, have been staging home invasions for the purposes of robbery throughout the Central Valley during the past several months, officials of the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) and independent sources told The Tico Times.
Although the OIJ officially lists the number of incidents linked specifically to this group at six, two witnesses who have asked that their names be withheld to protect their safety have put the number of incidents in recent months as high as 20.
The group arrives at its targets’ homes in sport utility vehicles in the evening hours and often cut phone wires before breaking in. The men enter the home wearing ski masks and carrying firearms. They are said to coordinate via radio with another person, possibly the driver of the getaway vehicle; speak English with an unidentifiable accent; and often tie up their victims before threatening their lives and looting the home, according to witnesses.
Victims told authorities that the assailants have placed guns against the heads of children present at the time of the assault.
“This group is particularly looking for people who show that they have a lot of money,” Jaime Carrera, chief of OIJ robbery investigations, told The Tico Times.
“They are very heavily armed and seriously threaten the use of violence.” The crew is particularly active in the western San José suburbs of Santa Ana and Escazú but have also been linked to, or suspected in, cases reported in the neighborhoods of Pavas and San Pedro – in west and east San José, respectively – as well as north of San José in Ciudad Cariari and Heredia, according to Carrera.
Although one source told The Tico Times that the crimes may be precipitated by the theft of house keys by women who pose as maids entering the home for a job interview, Carrera warns that any display of wealth may trigger an attack. “(This group) knows the movements of their targets,” he added. “They look for really luxurious cars and things to that effect.”
In addition to not flaunting wealth, Carrera said people should avoid traveling alone, using the same routes from day to day, and following a highly predictable daily schedule. Anyone with a particularly high level of wealth should also consider hiring private, personal guard services and installing immediate response alarms, he added.
To report a break-in or to provide information about this case, please contact OIJ’s Property Crimes Division at 295-3305. For emergency services, dial 911 from anywhere in the country.
See an upcoming edition of The TicoTimes for more on these crimes.