Lawmakers are considering creating a registry or some other type of official list of the cuidacarros, the men and a few women who voluntarily watch parked vehicles in the street.
A legislative commission considered the measure Thursday.
These are the men and women with the reflective vests who hit up motorists for spare change when they return to their vehicle. Whether the individuals actually safeguard the cars is an open question that generally depends on the person.
Mario Zamora, the security minister, talked about the bill Thursday before the Comisión Permanente de Gobierno y Administración. He said that if they go ahead with the plan lawmakers should make watching cars without being registered a minor crime.
Zamora also said there were other options in use in other Latin countries.
Legislators have tackled this issue in the past without results. Fuerza Publica officers have sought help from these car guards and even held training meetings. But there have been no reports of car guards actually providing usable information to police. Those who participated in the police training in July 2007 received a reflective vest, a cap and a wallet card that accredited them as assistants to the police.
The quality of car guards occupies a wide range. They could be upstanding retirees who need some extra money.
Or they could be the crack-smoking neighborhood burglar occupying his time until the sun sets.
Registration is designed to weed out the bad apples.
Many areas of the city are known for the car guards who work there. Some become so attached to where they work that they end up taking an employer to labor court on the premise that they actually were employees. One car guard actually won such a case against a restaurant.
Some cuidacarros are quite aggressive in demanding payment for the use of the public street and even abusive to the enforcement staff. In some cases, it’s little more than extortion, with everybody secure in the knowledge that they will scratch the paint if you don’t pay.
Others provide what are known as boleto where parking is regulated, as in the San José downtown. Cuidicarros mark up these parking permission slips and live off the difference.
Sometimes a crooked car guard will recycle these official boletos by taking one from the first vehicle and selling it to another motorist. Motorist No. 1 gets a parking ticket when the enforcement agents pass by. Expats should put the boleto inside the vehicles on the dashboard to defeat this practice.