Motorists have to make a choice when they are flagged down by police officers, either Fuerza Pública or Tránsito. The choice is whether to obey the signals of the officer.
Sometimes the policeman really is a crook in a uniform. There have been several robberies in the last two months in which the criminals dressed as policemen.
That was the dilemma facing the driver of an armored car Friday on the highway near Siquirres. Limón. About 3:50 p.m. two officers of the Policía de Tránsito signaled the man to pull over the armored car. They said later that he illegally crossed a double yellow line.
What was going on in the man’s head will eventually come out if there is a trial, but police said he pulled out a 9-mm. pistol and fired a warning shot in the air. Then he tried to drive away. The traffic officers said they blocked the way with a patrol car.
Soon it was obvious that the policemen were real because four Fuerza Pública officers on motorcycles quickly showed up and took the driver and two others in the armored car into custody. They confiscated five .38-caliber pistols, the security ministry said.
The driver was identified by the last names of Valdemar Umaña. Two guards in the vehicle have the last names of Cartín Guillén and Sánchez Montenegro. Still, police said, the driver refused to get out of the vehicle until a prosecutor arrived.
For the average motorist car robberies can happen in a flash. A crook shows up at the car window with a gun. That is called a bajanazo because the crook makes the driver get out. Some vehicles have a security device that will shut off the engine 100 yards down the road if such a robbery takes place.
One expat reports he fired a warning shot on the Autopista General Cañas when the vehicle he had rented at the airport developed a flat tire. That is a traditional way crooks get to rob or steal from motorists, mostly tourists. This expat happened to be a resident with a gun permit. So when the crooks drew near in another car, they saw the man produce the pistol and heard a warning shot from a .357 magnum. They left quickly.
When confronted by a possible policeman on a lonely stretch of country road, some security experts advise continuing to drive at a slow speed to the nearest police or fire station. For tourists, such locations may be hard to find.
Compounding the problem is that traffic police frequently set up checkpoints on lonely stretches of rural roads.
Those with cell telephones sometimes can verify quickly if the policeman is real or a crook in disguise.