Two more cases Thursday of crooks wearing police garb

If police officers come to your door, you ought to call the cops. That is the advice from Fuerza Pública officials as more and more crooks are dressing in blue uniforms.

There were two such incidents Thursday, and real police captured one man who was wearing a uniform. That was in Tibás where a man identified by the last names of Ramírez Sibaja was inside a repair shop in the act of robbery, said officers. Dagoberto Villalobos, head of the Fuerza Pública in that community said that the man had 51 prior arrests.

A companion fled, police said. Police recovered a firearm during the arrest.

In Rohrmoser men dressed as police robbed pedestrians Thursday, the Fuerza Pública said.

The man arrested in Tibás is definitely not a policeman, but the question remains open if other robbers are off-duty officers. In the last year, Fuerza Pública officers have been detained on burglary, extortion and robbery charges, and officials said nearly 500 were under investigation for one reason or another.

There has been a wave of such crimes where crooks dressed as police. The Joyería Calderón jewelry store in Mall San Pedro was the scene Feb. 2 of one robbery where one of the criminals wore a police uniform. He stayed outside the store as two companions took merchandise.

Another San José establishment was robbed about the same time when several persons dressed as police appeared at the door.

There are several other cases where assailants have been described as wearing Fuerza Pública uniforms or those of the Judicial Investigating Organization.
The most outrageous example was on the Caribbean coast where two officers in the Cahuita station used their authority to detain three men and then turned them over to a rival drug gang. Two of the three were executed, but the policemen have been arrested and sentenced. That was in June 2008.

The natural inclination is to allow police to enter locked premises. Some business places have secure doors and portones, those metal bars.

Police uniforms are readily available in second-hand clothing shops because the force has turnover.

Expats have been facing extortion by police, mainly in downtown San José. For a time police on foot or on motorcycles routinely stopped expats and others in the late evening. During such stops money had a tendency to vanish from wallets and pockets as police conducted a search for drugs and other illegal items.

But most encounters stopped short of robbery.

The extortive stops have lessened lately after a number of officers were detained to face allegations. The suspects included high officials of the downtown force. Some of the officers who were detained faced allegations that they did rob pedestrians.

Using police uniforms is an old trick. Drug gang members did that when they gunned down two U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents this week in México. One of the U.S. lawmen rolled the window down of their armored vehicle to show credentials and then the killers opened up.

Police officers here are aware of the concern among citizens, and real police officers at the door probably would not object to a 911 call. Police officials, in fact, are urging citizens to do that if officers show up at the door.

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