Arrest in tire-puncturing case serves to remind tourists

Tourists continue to be easy picking for crooks who take advantage of flat tires on rental vehicles.

The Judicial Investigating Organization made an arrest Wednesday, but the threat for tourists leaving Juan Santamaría airport in Alajuela and Daniel Oduber airport in Liberia is continual. Such crimes have been reported for at least 10 years.

The crime requires an insider at a rental car company. The individual uses an ice pick or other sharp object to puncture the tire of a vehicle that soon will be on the road. The trick is not confined to rental agencies. Some service station attendants have been found doing the same thing in all parts of the country.

The idea is to cause the tire to deflate slowly so that when it goes flat, the occupants are stuck in a spot where they are easy prey.

Sometimes this in the Autopista General Cañas between Juan Santamaría and downtown San José. The stranded
tourists are approached by motorists who want to help. When the help is accepted, the good samaritans grab luggage and other valuables from the car, frequently without the knowledge of the tourists who are preoccupied with the flat tire.

Alternately, the good samaritans may pull a gun and strip the victims of all they have.

Even long-time expat residents have been victimized even as they knew what was going on. Somehow the crooks managed to steal items from one car even though the expats did not see anyone approach it.

In one incident, an armed expat waved his revolver at the approaching samaritans, who then quickly drove off.

The man detained in a raid Wednesday is a Colombian, but many nationalities have been involved in such crimes.

Judicial police usually advise expats to drive on the deflated tire until they reach a safe location even if doing so means the tire is destroyed. Some frequent visitors make detailed checks of their tires before leaving the rental car yard.

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