‘Tis the season to keep an eye on the luggage

Agents managed to recover this.

Agents managed to recover this.

Plenty of tourists have had their visit marred by bus terminal crooks. Every San Jose´terminal and similar locations in other communities are hunting grounds for baggage thieves.

Sometimes the theft degenerates into armed robbery.

The biggest targets are females and travelers with large amount of luggage.

One technique is for a crook to engage a tourist in conversation while a confederate quietly steals a piece of luggage. The luggage may be passed off to a third crook and then speedily put in a waiting vehicle.

This happens frequently at the Coca Cola bus terminal at Calle 16 and Avenidas 1 to 3 on the west side of San José. But travelers at all terminals are vulnerable as are those in tourist communities.

There are a handful of terminals in San José, each with buses headed for their own destinations.  Gran Terminal del Caribe, another hot spot, is at  Avenida 9 and Calle 12, and, as the name implies, provides service to the Caribbean coast.

All of these are crowded during the holiday seasons, and bus managers add extra vehicles to accommodate the travelers.

The Judicial Investigation Organization is trying to make a dent in terminal robberies. Tuesday agents were on the alert early in the morning when one crook struck up a conversation with a  tourist who was waiting to purchase a ticket.

The time was about 5:45 a.m.

While the tourist was distracted, according to agents, an accomplice lifted a bag and began to flee.

Agents eventually collared both individuals and remanded them to the flagrancy tribunal. Still such thefts are not considered high crimes here, and the accused are likely to get off with a light penalty. The agency has yet to report the judicial outcome.

That agents are on patrol at bus terminals suggests that there have been a number of complaints. The crooks have steady jobs, and usually end up with a smorgasbørd of personal effects. These are then exchanged for money at the local pawn shops.

The evidence for this is the great variety of electronic items and cameras that the shops have for sale. Some of the best collections of Nikon cameras and lenses can be found at downtown pawn shops.

There also have been periodic complaints that luggage handlers have gone through checked luggage at the airport and helped themselves to valuable items.

Bus terminals are not the only spots where tourists are in jeopardy of losing luggage. Thefts have taken place outside of terminals like Coca Cola. In one case a crook took the suitcase of a woman tourist. When she gave chase, she ended up at the wrong end of a revolver as the crook put her suitcase in a car and left.

In addition, some bold thieves have been known to lift a suitcase while visitors are checking  into hotels. A tourist usually thinks the crook is a hotel worker until the luggage is determined to be missing.

Even once on a bus, the luggage is not completely safe. Crooks have been known to steal from tour buses while passengers are eating a meal or taking a rest stop. At other times crooks purchase a bus ticket and grab luggage while the bus makes a stop. They are picked up by a vehicle that is following.

Some online travel sites have written extensively about theft possibilities in San José and Costa Rica.

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