Thursday, January 24, 2008

Stereotyping Columbia

Another assortment from State department- let us hear from Columbians on the reality- is it really that bad?

Armed robbery and other violent crimes are common in major Colombian cities. Several recent robberies of American citizens have occurred after using automatic teller machines (ATMs) on the street. In some cases, robbers have used motorcycles to approach their victims and later flee the scene. American citizens are urged to use ATMs only during daylight hours and only inside shopping malls or other protected locations. Driving to and from the location – rather than walking – provides added protection. When using an ATM, you should be on the lookout for anyone who may be watching or following you. Generally speaking, if you are the victim of a robbery and not in fear of losing your life or of serious bodily harm, you should not resist. Robbery victims have sometimes been shot and killed while resisting.

Robbery of people hailing taxis on the street is a particularly serious problem in Bogotá. Typically, the driver – who is one of the conspirators – will pick up the passenger, and then stop to pick up two or more armed cohorts, who enter the cab, overpower the passenger, and take his/her belongings. If the passenger has an ATM card, the perpetrators will often force the passenger to withdraw money from various ATM locations. Such ordeals can last for hours.

In almost every case of taxi-related crime, the victims have been riding alone and have hailed their taxis off the street. Rather than hailing a taxi, you should take advantage of the telephone dispatch service most taxi companies offer. Many hotels, restaurants, and stores will call a taxi for you, and the taxis usually arrive within minutes. When a taxi is dispatched by telephone, the dispatcher creates a record of the call and the responding taxi. Additionally, the passenger receives a code from the dispatcher, which helps ensure that the correct taxi has arrived.

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