Crimes are not reported because investigators are ineffective

Is it any wonder theft goes under reported in Costa Rica?

Last year, people we know who own and operate a small hotel in Cahuita on the Caribbean coast were physically attacked in their beds by thieves who broke into their house in the night. The couple, asleep in an upstairs bedroom, were chloroformed.

She luckily got a smaller dose than her husband and woke up while the robbers were in the process of stripping out the hotel’s electronic office equipment. She raised the alarm, and the thieves departed, largely empty-handed, though one had sustained a cut when they escaped with some bottles of liquor they’d grabbed on their way out.

The hoteliers immediately called the town police who did not bother to attend the scene. In the morning, however, judicial agents did come to investigate — but that is all they did. Yes, they could see that one of the thieves had left a hat and a shoe behind, both easily identifiable as belonging to a well-known member of the community.

The house and its contents were not dusted for fingerprints and neither was a bottle of booze the ladrones had dropped outside, though it had both blood and fingerprints on it. No, none of the evidence left at the scene would be of any value, not admissible in court, so nothing was to be done. Very sorry but —  (Insert helpless Tico shrug of indifference here).

Two months ago, when we returned from a trip to Canada, we found that, while we were away and the man who has cared for our small house during our absences over the past six years was in the hospital, our home had been burglarized and a good many items stolen. I had brand names, serial numbers and other identifying information for most of the stolen items and turned all that in to judicial agents, who were very polite and totally useless, again with the pseudo-apologetic shrug and a “Well, what can we do?” attitude.

“Are you going to check pawn-shops in Limón?” we asked. The answer, another shrug and “Even if we found your things, they’d be used as evidence should the thieves ever be found and prosecuted.”

So, do we get our possessions back when and if all the above happens? “Oh, ‘evidence’ doesn’t get returned to its rightful owners. No, no. It now belongs to the court.”

In this country, where theft and the acceptance of it are viewed as a way of life, there appears to be little if any point in bothering to contact any branch of the police force because it, and the much vaunted court system are as thieving as the druggie on the corner wanting his next fix.

That, in my opinion, is why only about half of such crimes are reported. One either learns to accept the loss or get out.

* Ms. Gill is the author of over 50 published novels and lives on the Caribbean coast.

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