San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Police Puncture ‘Pinchonazo’ Gang

Police arrested a Colombian in the act of robbing a U.S. citizen using the “pinchonazo,” or tire-slashing, method.

The crime consists of puncturing a car’s tires while it is parked, waiting for the driver to use it, following them until they pull over and then robbing them, Public Security Ministry spokesman Carlos Hidalgo said.

Authorities said the Colombian, last name Tobar, is a member of the Chitiva gang, which targets tourists in Costa Rica.

He was arrested last weekend in Brasilito, in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, soon after he allegedly stuck a homemade knife into the tires of the parked car of the victim, who declined to be identified.

Police organized a sting against the gang, based on numerous reports and tips from area businesses. They followed Tobar until he punctured the tires at which time they sprang into action.

Hidalgo said Tobar told police that two accomplices of the intended robbery escaped the scene in a vehicle.

“While (Tobar) was trying to commit the misdeed, two other subjects were waiting for him in a vehicle,” Hidalgo said.

“When they saw the police forces present, they fled.”

The Chitiva gang is named after its leader, a Colombian known by the same nickname who was deported on March 29.

The country’s informal law-enforcement policy is to deport these criminals instead of prosecuting them.

Immigration Police Chief Francisco Castaing said the deportation policy is a result of weak laws and the fact foreign criminals can use the time awaiting trial to marry a Tico and gain additional legal protection from deportation or extradition.

Tobar’s arrest was the result of a police sweep of the Guanacaste province that started last Thursday and ended on Saturday.

The sweep netted 100 grams of marijuana, 23 crack rocks and two firearms.


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