Pawn shop sweep nets 11 persons but few stolen items

An impressive police turnout at a small local commercial center results in a lot of officers with time on their hands.

The Fuerza Pública inspected 41 stores, mostly what could be called pawn shops, but all they came up with were 10 possibile stolen cell telephones, 50 pairs of sneakers and what they said were big quantities of tools.

In all police checked on 240 items and questioned 180 persons. Of those 11 were detained, but not for pawn shop activities. Six were illegal aliens and three had unrelated warrants outstanding. Two were subjects of orders to appear in court.

The center of San José is filled with pawn shops, which do a big business with cash-strapped Costa Ricans after Christmas.

But they also do business with crooks. Some are open 24 hours a day.

Some of the items confiscated were taken because the store
owners might not have paid the import duties.

The police presence was Fuerza Pública, the Grupo de Apoyo Operacional, the Unidad Canina and the Unidad de Intervención Policial. Also involved were the division of plans and operations of the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, municipal police, the Policía Fiscal, immigration agents and health officials.

The pawn shops are a vital link in thefts and home invasions. A crook might get 5,000 colons or about $10 for a cell telephone with no questions asked. The store may sell the same device for $100. Some downtown pawn shops have extensive and impressive collections of all types of cameras, including top of the line Nikons.

Police do not check the pawn shops routinely. In fact, a local television station taped police in a patrol car stopping at a 24-hour pawn shop for refreshments.

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