Traffic cop creativity brings in the money

I read with a chuckle, your article about the Nicaraguan gentleman who was extorted by a traffic cop and later returned with the judicial police who arrested the traffic cop. I am amazed this cop was stupid enough to agree to let the driver come back to pay more money. Most of the time the cops are unidentifiable because they never wear name tags or badge numbers.

We all know this sort of thing happens on a daily basis all over the Costa Rica. Many of my friends who have come to visit have been extorted and have paid the cop, and it has happened to me. I live here, so I know where all the speed traps are, and after I paid a $600 speeding ticket last year, I am now meticulous about adhering to speed limits.

But nevertheless, I was pulled over recently while doing 59 in a 60 KPH stretch. The officer asked for my license. I unlatched my seat belt to reach into my pants pocket for my wallet. The officer looked at my cédula and Costa Rica driver’s license, but would not answer my repeated questions asking why he pulled me over. Instead, he tugged on my now-loose seat belt and said, “You’re not wearing your seat belt. That is a $500 fine.”

When I sputtered that I was wearing it when I stopped the car and took it off to give him my license, he muttered, “Oh. I didn’t see. You can go.” Had I been a nervous tourist instead of a savvy permanent resident, I might have eagerly offered up a few dollars to avoid a $500 fine. Although this was going on in Costa Rica before we had new traffic laws imposing exorbitant fines, one of the unintended consequences of the new laws is that they have been a boon for traffic cops looking to supplement their low incomes by extorting nervous tourists and poor Ticos who can’t afford to pay huge traffic fines. Arresting one cop in Desamparados isn’t going to stop it.

Rob Rowntree

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