Expat kidnap threat is a lot worse elsewhere

Expats, particularly those with children, live in fear of kidnappings. And there is some justification.

The high profile abduction of well-known Canadian expat Ryan Piercy a year ago contributed to expat concerns.

Still, the bulk of the kidnappings here involve Costa Ricans as victims, and the motives are mixed. Frequently kidnapping is the result of a drug war or an effort to collect a debt.

So-called express kidnappings are crimes where the crooks quickly settle for a limited amount of money. Many of these never are reported to police.

A lot of the kidnappings take place among the poorer barrios. These, too, usually never become a police report unless the victim ends up dead.

Such is the case of a kidnapping-murder that resulted in arrests Wednesday.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that agents arrested two men, 23 and 28, and a 22-year-old woman in the Aug. 19 kidnapping of a Los Guidos, Desamparados, man with the last names of Garcia Vega.

After negotiating by telephone, the victim’s family agreed to pay 400,000 colons (about $750)  and did. But Sept. 3, the victim turned up in a field dead.

Judicial agents still have not outlined the motive, but this appears to be a kidnapping for money.

The suspects also live in the same low-income Desamparados neighborhood. Agents said they found possessions belonging to the victim at the home of one of the suspects. Garcia is believed to have died from a blow to the head.

Fuerza Pública officers on patrol broke up a kidnapping July 29 in Atenas after armed men broke into a home there and forced an occupant to go with them.

One expat family left a luxury home here and returned to California after surveillance cameras showed men lurking outside their compound.

Another family took extensive precautions after a domestic employee said that she had been approached by men seeking her help to stage either a kidnapping or home invasion.

There have been one or two high-profile cases reported each year, but there does not seem to be an organized gang that

specializes in kidnappings like there once was in 2001.

The frequency of such crimes is much higher in other countries.

The firm said that worldwide nine of 10 kidnap victims are residents of the country where the crime took place. The Americas accounted for just 14 percent of the reported kidnappings worldwide.

The firm said that the 11 countries that face a severe kidnapping threat are Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen

The Philippines is Southeast Asia’s top kidnapping hotspot, where Abu Sayyaf and the New People’s Army continue to pose a significant kidnap threat alongside criminal gangs, the firm said, adding that Colombia gives cause for optimism, as continuing peace talks with the Fuerzas Armada Revolucionarias de Colombia rebel demonstrate mediation can alleviate a once severe kidnap threat.

Basic advice to expats is to not flaunt wealth. Only really wealthy individuals, gaming site owners, diplomats or national level politicians go so far as to hire bodyguards. Costa Rica remains far from the level of precautions taken in other countries where wealthy individuals or drug lords travel to town in a caravan of heavily armed men manning .50-caliber machine guns.

One of the three detained Wednesday.

One of the three detained Wednesday.

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