Thursday, January 28, 2010

I look at things, Maribel looks at people….

……which is why she spotted him following us this morning. He had been following for five blocks before Maribel mentioned it to me. He was probably alerted via cell phone by an accomplice who saw us at the ATM. He made two turns with us and walked parallel across the street, occasionally making brief phone calls and casually glancing at us. This was on Ave Balta at mid-day with hundreds of people in the area.

Now, this is not an unusual situation because as I’ve said in earlier posts, if you know what to look for you can spot these thieves pretty much everywhere any time of the day or night, but I’m feeling more sensitive lately because two thieves just like the guy checking us out this morning stole my camera from me nine days ago. One of them cut the camera case off my belt as I was entering a combi. I didn’t even know it had happened until Maribel yelled, but by then it was too late. I chased after them but I can’t catch twenty year olds anymore.

Everyone in Chiclayo will tell you crime is out of control. If you ask as I did, what percentage of the population will steal if given the opportunity you’ll get estimates anywhere from 5% to 20%. I don’t buy 20% and doubt if it’s even 5, but even if it is only 2%, it is not possible for me to convey to you the degree of influence this 2% has on the daily existence of the rest of the population. What you will wear; what you will carry with you and how you will carry it; what time you will go; what day you will go; what route you will take and whether you will go alone or take someone with you are all determined by the thieves. And whether you’re walking or riding in a taxi or combi, you’re never completely relaxed because you’re constantly scanning for potential danger.

The accompanying Google map shows most of the city of Chiclayo. The area outlined in red is what several people including me consider to be a reasonably ‘safe’ area (though it was in the middle of this area the thief was following us this morning). The further you get outside of this ‘safe’ area the more likely it is that you’ll have problems. The blue X to the left on the map is where my camera was stolen. And if you should happen to find yourself on the very fringe area of the city, while I won’t say it is a certainty that you will be robbed, I will guarantee that you will have been looked at several times as a potential target. I know it sounds like I’m describing a war zone, but no Chiclayano would dispute the accuracy of what I’ve written.

Let me tell you what I would like to see happen to change the situation. Going back to my camera robbery, I wish the law would have allowed me to put a bullet into the back of the thief's head. Then I would like to see a TV crew showing the face of the grieving mother as she cradles the head of her dead son in her lap. I’d like to see them broadcast her comments of outrage toward the gringo who killed her ‘wonderful boy’. Then I would ask to be interviewed. I would say to the woman “I am sorry your son is dead, but you knew damn well your son was a thief, and if you had taught him proper values he would still be alive.’ I would look into the camera and tell the thieves and parents of thieves that this is what is in store for them.

Cold blooded? Heartless? A human life is worth more than a camera? If that’s what you’re thinking, come live here for awhile. See, feel and experience it for yourself, then judge me if you must. Chiclayo is a beautiful city with wonderful people and so much to offer, but that constant element of fear is like a cloud blotting out the sun. Something has to change.

What happened with the thief this morning? We stopped in front of a bank and pointed him out to a couple of cops. He quickly melted into the crowd. We didn’t see him again. We never saw his accomplice.


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