San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Arenal Report

In August 2011, throughout Guanacaste province, the Public Safety Ministry, in conjunction with Judicial Investigative Police (OIJ) and the National Police taught an 11-module course devoted to developing community security. Weekly two-hour sessions focused on community organization, identifying security problems, basic legal issues, criminology, operation of the criminal justice system, domestic violence and prevention of local drug trafficking.

One point emphasized was the importance of communication between neighbors regarding anything appearing out of the ordinary, such as unfamiliar cars or trucks parked along the road or in. Other recommendations included investigating dog barking at a house and noticing strangers to the neighborhood. Colonel Jorge Solano, regional chief of National Police, encouraged sharing information with friends and neighbors, noting that the more people who are aware of unusual activity, the better chance there is to deter crime, especially theft, burglary of homes, etc.

O.K., here it is: BOLO! (be on the lookout). A home in the Arenal area was burglarized this past weekend. The thieves pried off the window bars, gained entry to the home and stole computers, laptops, cell phones, T.V. sets and other items with quick sale value. Two unfamiliar vehicles were reported in the area.

One was a bright red newer model sedan, the other a bright blue dirty old sedan. If you

see them, photograph them with your cell phone camera. Try for the license plate numbers. One mistake relevant to this burglary was the failure of neighbors to investigate

dogs barking excessively at the home.

Though vigilante justice is never encouraged, it can prove very effective. Back in the early 1990’s, a smallish town had been targeted by thieves who were not local. One night they were caught in the act. All but one managed to escape. A few days later the curiosity of a hiker was piqued by the presence of a rope tied to the railing of the Rio Tarcoles bridge. On pulling up the rope, the hiker was horrified to recognize a pair of human legs encased in blue jeans and tied together at the ankles. The entire upper half of the body was missing. These were the days before DNA analysis had come to Costa Rica, but subsequent investigation of missing persons lists and the presence of a very unique tattoo on one ankle identified the remains as those of the thief who had failed to escape. One can only speculate as to the frenzied melee among the storied reptiles of Rio Tarcoles striving for a morsel of the unexpected appetizer.

That was the last theft in this town until 2008, when a candy bar was taken from a small store by a child. Justice was served with a spanking and having the child listen to the story of what can happen to people who steal. Could dinner be served once again?

-William & Jean Priest

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