Anatomy Of An Armed Robbery in South America

by Dave on June 21, 2011 · 58 comments

Confronted with my own mortality, in the form of a silver revolver held fifteen inches from my face, the world around me came to a quiet standstill. Instinct took over. There was no time to think. There were no options to consider. I did what I had to do, and I did it without delay.

Barrio Belen

Barrio Belen

Warning Signs

On March 5, 2011, Freddie, a twenty-something UK man was riding in a friend’s car in the Belen neighborhood of Medellin. At a stoplight, two men tried to rob him of a gold chain. According to reports, he resisted, and was shot fatally in the chest.

When I read the news on Colombia Reports earlier in the year, it sent chills down my spine. Belen is a large, working class neighborhood on the Western side of the city. I lived there for five weeks in 2010, and visited monthly to extend my tourist visa in Colombia.

The story reiterated my conviction that if I was ever robbed in South America, whether the assailant was visibly armed or not, I would hand over whatever was in my possession.

Monthly Routine

June 15 started like any other day. I roused myself out of bed around 9 AM, and opened the blinds to expose the western mountains of Medellin, as well as my view toward barrio Belen. I’d been back in Colombia four months, and was due to extend my tourist visa for another 30 days. After three years in the country, the process was second nature to me.

June 15 also happens to be payday in Colombia, which means more people are visiting ATM’s to withdraw cash, and more thieves are on the prowl to take advantage.

I showered, dressed, and walked out the door with 150,000 pesos ($40) cash. Half this sum would go toward the 72,350 peso deposit required to extend my visa. The other half would help pay for taxis to and from the Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad (DAS) office.

In addition, I was carrying my four year old passport, the one I’d taken around the world with me to more than 22 countries since 2007. In my front left jean pocket was my Blackberry. In my back left pocket was a pack of gum, and in my back right pocket, my Virginia driver’s license and a few business cards. Aside from the passport, these were the things I normally carried around with me.

Leaving my apartment complex, I walked ten minutes north, through discoteca-laden barrio Colombia, to the Premium Plaza mall. I stepped inside the cool, air-conditioned Banco Davivienda and waited in line for a teller. I deposited the pesos, and collected my bank receipt to take to DAS.

Outside Premium Plaza, I walked to the first yellow taxi in a long line, got in the front seat, and instructed the driver. Both of the front windows were down, as is often the case during the day given Medellin’s amicable climate.

In 2009, I spent my last night in Medellin dancing with friends at La Rumbantela, a small salsa bar on Calle 33.

In 2009, I spent my last night in Medellin dancing with friends at La Rumbantela, a small salsa bar on Calle 33.

Armed Robbery

It was 11:15 AM as we pulled into traffic. I was fiddling with my Blackberry — checking Twitter no doubt. In the past, I’ve had the occasional taxi driver warn me to keep my phone away from the open window, as to prevent theft. Usually that’s not an issue, as I use my phone more for messaging and internet access than talking to people.

We crossed Rio Medellin, the river that bisects the city from north to south, and were heading west on Calle 33, a main thoroughfare known for its nightlife on the weekends. The taxi came to a halt at a traffic light. We were close to a large intersection, but there were cars in front of us, to the right, and possibly to the left as well.

From my peripheral vision, I noticed a dark shape moving up the right side of the taxi toward my window. Thinking it was a beggar, street performer, or vendor selling something, I instinctively moved my Blackberry toward the center of the car. There was no thought involved. I was operating on some primal intuition that a threat was approaching.

When I looked back to the right, the man had stopped in front of the window, blocking my entire view in that direction. At eye level, I was looking straight at a dull, silver revolver being held flush against his stomach, pointing toward the front of the car. He was holding it in his left hand, which I imagine was on purpose to leave his dominant right hand free to collect my belongings. The gun looked cheap and old.

He was wearing a helmet, and I don’t recall if he said anything, but when I saw the gun, words weren’t necessary. My number was up, I was being robbed in South America. As quickly as I’d moved my Blackberry away from the window, I swung it back to him without hesitation.

I reached into my front right pocket and pulled out the 75,000 or so pesos ($40) still on me. I gave that to him too, and then he reached into the car and felt my pocket to see if I was holding out on him. It was then that I was most scared, because I was acutely aware that if he perceived any resistance on my part, he could decide to shoot me.

I pulled out my passport, while at the same time saying “solo pasaporte” to in some way indicate that there would be no value of that item to him, only frustration for me should I lose it. Either I was wrong, or in that moment he didn’t care what I was giving him, so as long as it was everything. As soon as he grabbed the passport, he was gone.

Aftermath

I sat buckled in my seat, stunned at what had just happened.

The light changed green within seconds, and traffic began to move. The whole interaction didn’t last more than 30 – 60 seconds, but it felt like an eternity.

I didn’t think to look backwards to try and get the motorbike’s license plate (an accomplice was driving it), nor did I see which direction they sped off (but I believe it was to the right of us…not in front).

The taxi driver, a middle-aged man, said and did nothing during the interaction. If ever there was a picture of calm and collected, it was this man to my left. And while some may consider him complicit, as far as I’m concerned, when a gun is involved, it’s in everyone’s best interest to stay out of it.

My initial response was anger. Anger that I was holding my Blackberry out in plain view, albeit in my lap. “Estupido” I proclaimed, (wrongly) blaming myself for inviting the theft.

I asked, rhetorically, why he would want my passport? Maybe he could sell it to counterfeiters, but it was just as likely to end up in a trash bin when he realized there was no immediate value to it. Meanwhile, I would have to take time away from work, and incur the travel expenses to Bogota, and the administrative expenses of obtaining an emergency, and later regular, passport.

I felt bitter that a city I was trying to help would repay me with such a terrifying experience.

I felt sad that this experience only served to justify other people’s preconceived notions about the safety of Medellin and Colombia.

The taxi driver said little, nor did he offer to call the police at any point. But I wasn’t going to let my only witness go without giving an official account.

Arriving at DAS

Upon reaching DAS, he parked his car, and came to the entrance with me, where he relayed the robbery in Spanish to the female guard. She took his name and license plate, and asked that he wait for us to return.

Inside the DAS office, which was all but empty, the guard relayed the story to a man with a shiny silver badge hanging from his neck.  He immediately called the local police. We walked back outside to the sidewalk, and within a few minutes, a motorbike arrived with two young police officers.

One of the officers immediately began to reassure me, and then we both walked over to the taxi driver who gave his best account of what happened, including a limited description of the perpetrator. As he was wearing a helmet, and possibly sunglasses, I knew the chances of catching him were slim to none. But I also knew it was important to get these details for an official police report.

As the taxi driver was giving his account, a police car arrived. When he was finished, he reached into his taxi and gave me a business card. His parting words, “not all Colombians are bad.”

I climbed in the back seat of the air-conditioned cop car. Two men got in the front and drove us to the nearby Belen police station. The one in the passenger seat made small talk, asking me where I was from and what I thought of the city.

I imagine that’s something they teach in the emergency services. A kind of redirection of thought for those who’ve just experienced a traumatic event. Either that or it’s simply human nature.

Despite being surrounded by police, I was on edge. Hyper-sensitive to everything going on around me.

Belen Police Station

As we entered the police station, a Volkswagen minivan was filling up with police and heading out. I wondered if VW had won a recent contract with the city’s police force to supply new vehicles.

Inside the station, I was introduced to an officer who spoke a little English. Two months worth to be exact, but I was happy to have his assistance.

I was brought to another room where I had to wait for a woman to finish her business with a large man who appeared to be a senior level officer. Jefe, he was called by the others.

The small talk continued, and the translator asked my thoughts of the police station. I had already taken note that it was a handsome building, with exposed concrete walls giving both a sense of strength and austerity. I asked if it was new, and he said yes. I responded that it was nice.

When the woman had completed her report with el jefe, I switched seats, and recounted the story, including the items stolen from me.

The chief was annoyed with the slowness of his computer, but after ten minutes, an official one page report was printed off. I was given a copy, which would be required to explain my loss at the US Embassy in Bogota, as well as the DAS office when I returned to get my visa extended.

If I had travel insurance, I would’ve used it to file a claim as well. Unfortunately, a lot of insurance policies do not cover Colombia because it is on the US State Department travel warning list (along with other popular destinations such as Mexico, Israel, and Kenya).

Two new police officers were tasked with driving me home in another of the new VW minivans. More small talk ensued.

What did I think of the city?  Did I have a girlfriend? Aren’t the women in Medellin beautiful?

Home, Sweet Home

When we reached my apartment, I climbed out of the van. The officer in the passenger seat did as well, taking a moment to write his name and phone number on a piece of paper, should I need anything.

Later that night, I mentioned the theft to my new Colombian roommate. He asked if I would be leaving the country.

No, I responded, I would stay until early August as planned.

Travel is my life now, and I’ve worked too hard to give that up out of fear alone.

____________

Medellin Travel GuideMy 138-page, all-original Medellín Travel Guide is now available for Kindle and PDF.

 

 

 

 

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About the Author:

is the author of 1727 posts on Go Backpacking.

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Categories: Colombia, Features
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58 Comments

Instinct Voyageur June 21, 2011 at 1:32 pm

already know this story;-)
You are right for the last sentance!
The final here was crazy saturday night! National!
Back to Medellin?
Take care!

Reply

Instinct Voyageur June 21, 2011 at 1:32 pm

already know this story;-)
You are right for the last sentance!
The final here was crazy saturday night! National!
Back to Medellin?
Take care!

Reply

Dave June 22, 2011 at 5:50 am

Hola Fabrice, was great to meet you! I saw the people partying in the streets for National, but was taking it easy that night. :)

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Leonelmart June 21, 2011 at 1:36 pm

Great account Dave. I would just say that being street smart is your best defense. Of course then there are situations you simply can’t avoid. Remember that there are muggings right here in DC. a friend of mine was recently robbed in Spain of all places.

Leo

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Dave June 22, 2011 at 5:51 am

Thanks for the reminder Leo….it can be easy to think that bad stuff like this only happens abroad, especially since I’ve never known anyone in the US to be robbed.

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Nicole June 21, 2011 at 2:29 pm

And it happened during a lunar eclipse! May be coincidence, but I see it as further proof of my new theory that whacked out stuff happens during lunar eclipses. :)

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Dave June 22, 2011 at 5:52 am

Hi Nicole, thanks for reading. What other whacked out stuff supports your theory?

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Erik Smith June 21, 2011 at 7:40 pm

Dave-
This is an important story- I’m sure one you’d rather not have had to tell. It gives the solid advice to travelers to give up what they have if robbed. New or inexperienced travelers might find that hard, but I think that your advice here may help save some people unfortunate harm in the future.

12 years ago when I worked in a travel bookstore, Columbia was considered one of the world’s most dangerous countries. I’m glad to have seen that change.

Stay Safe.

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Dave June 22, 2011 at 5:53 am

Thanks Erik. I’m certainly going to be more careful in taxis — keeping the windows up, locking doors, sitting in the back seat. Part of me always felt those measures were for the paranoid, but I think little things that can make you and your taxi a harder target can make a big difference.

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Dave June 22, 2011 at 5:53 am

Thanks Erik. I’m certainly going to be more careful in taxis — keeping the windows up, locking doors, sitting in the back seat. Part of me always felt those measures were for the paranoid, but I think little things that can make you and your taxi a harder target can make a big difference.

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Kevin Post June 21, 2011 at 10:29 pm

Just so you are aware Dave, foreign passports are typically worth a lot of money on the black market because they are used for identity theft as well as making counterfeit documents.

It happens to the best of us man. My passport was stolen on a bus in Esmeralds, Ecuador in 2006.

Best of luck to you, I look forward to hanging out. 

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Dave June 22, 2011 at 5:55 am

Hey Kevin, I’m not surprised to hear that about the passports, especially American ones, but now that I’ve reported it stolen, it’s not like my passport specifically can be used to enter the USA. So they could take out blank (unused pages)…..but what else?

Anyways, I’m back in Medellin now so hopefully we can hang out soon.

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Dave June 22, 2011 at 5:55 am

Hey Kevin, I’m not surprised to hear that about the passports, especially American ones, but now that I’ve reported it stolen, it’s not like my passport specifically can be used to enter the USA. So they could take out blank (unused pages)…..but what else?

Anyways, I’m back in Medellin now so hopefully we can hang out soon.

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Dean Wickham June 21, 2011 at 11:56 pm

A great account. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to have a gun pointed at you. I agree in that situation, just give it all up. Everything can be replaced, but you can’t replace your life.

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Dean Wickham June 21, 2011 at 11:56 pm

A great account. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to have a gun pointed at you. I agree in that situation, just give it all up. Everything can be replaced, but you can’t replace your life.

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Dave June 22, 2011 at 5:57 am

Hey Dean, thanks for reading. Luckily, the gun was never actually pointed directly at me. I think that would have had me pissing my pants.

Obviously the thief was trying to intimidate me by walking up with it, but I think he kept it against his stomach instead of pointing it directly at me because he was trying to maintain a low profile given it was daytime, and we were in the middle of a busy street.

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Dave June 22, 2011 at 5:57 am

Hey Dean, thanks for reading. Luckily, the gun was never actually pointed directly at me. I think that would have had me pissing my pants.

Obviously the thief was trying to intimidate me by walking up with it, but I think he kept it against his stomach instead of pointing it directly at me because he was trying to maintain a low profile given it was daytime, and we were in the middle of a busy street.

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Dave from TLWH June 22, 2011 at 6:13 am

Sorry to hear about your encounter Dave. If there is one thing I cannot stand in this world it is cheating and theft. I walk around like fort knox. No matter, a gun to your face is not a pleasant experience. 

No matter, things could have been worse. Not in terms of violence, but in terms of possessions, the taxi man not cooperating, ditto the police. For that alone you did well. And, in keeping a cool head. 

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Dave June 22, 2011 at 4:09 pm

Thanks Dave. Oddly, I don’t feel a lot of anger toward the thief, though I do believe in karma, and believe that eventually he’s going to mess with the wrong guy, or his actions will catch up with him.

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WanderingTrader June 22, 2011 at 6:44 am

Glad your safe and sound!

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WanderingTrader June 22, 2011 at 6:44 am

Glad your safe and sound!

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Anonymous June 22, 2011 at 7:29 am

So sorry to hear of your encounter! This is a great reminder to be careful as we do get complacent sometimes!

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Dave June 22, 2011 at 4:12 pm

Yes, I agree about the complacency, and have already changed the way I ride in a taxi, though it’s hard to drive around in such a nice climate with the windows always rolled up.

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Anonymous June 22, 2011 at 7:29 am

So sorry to hear of your encounter! This is a great reminder to be careful as we do get complacent sometimes!

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Flipnomad June 22, 2011 at 7:54 am

thanks for sharing this story.. i got goosebumps when i read your last line “Travel is my life now, and I’ve worked too hard to give that up out of fear alone.” and I so agree with you… good thing you weren’t hurt by the robbers… glad you were able to maintain your calm…

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Dave June 22, 2011 at 4:13 pm

Thanks. I’m really trying hard to keep the event in perspective. I’ve lived in 16 months so far, and this is the first time I’ve ever been threatened (though a pickpocket did steal my phone last year).

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Flipnomad June 22, 2011 at 7:54 am

thanks for sharing this story.. i got goosebumps when i read your last line “Travel is my life now, and I’ve worked too hard to give that up out of fear alone.” and I so agree with you… good thing you weren’t hurt by the robbers… glad you were able to maintain your calm…

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MIa June 22, 2011 at 9:24 am

This is a scary post, hope everything will turn out fine with the passport. South America and South Africa are on my “not to go list” due to security issues. Although fear should never be an impediment when traveling, some times it’s better to be prudent.

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MIa June 22, 2011 at 9:24 am

This is a scary post, hope everything will turn out fine with the passport. South America and South Africa are on my “not to go list” due to security issues. Although fear should never be an impediment when traveling, some times it’s better to be prudent.

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Dave June 22, 2011 at 4:15 pm

Thanks Mia. I was very on edge while traveling in South Africa, however I took extra precautions, and went back to my hostels early. I didn’t do as much partying in the bars and clubs there, but I did have an amazing 2 months crossing the country. I think there’s always a balance that can be achieved, but it will vary from person to person based on their life experience and tolerance for risk.

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Vago Damitio June 22, 2011 at 5:36 pm

Total Bummer Dave. I’ve had a few guns shoved in my face and you definitely did the right thing. The passport is just a reminder to the memories but your health and life are the key to new ones. Great write up amigo.

~Vago

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Dave June 22, 2011 at 7:59 pm

Vago – thanks. Sorry to hear it’s happened to you more than once.

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viajecin June 23, 2011 at 2:20 pm

I am sorry you had to go through this experience!  The other day some tourists got robbed in the corner of the same street we were walking on! (Here in Buenos Aires). It can happen anywhere! 
 I also had a couple of similar experiences in Colombia. After it happened, I was just glad they didn’t hurt me.  Material things come and go…. Another story to tell.  Good luck with paperwork in Bogota.
Don’t use your BB during your taxi ride.  :-)    

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Tyler Woychyshyn June 23, 2011 at 2:46 pm

When is the post coming out with Super Dave’s tips to avoid bandits on the road? One great tip that I pulled from this is to find out when local paydays heighten your guard. Very vivid post.

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Dave June 23, 2011 at 7:14 pm

Hey Tyler, yes it wasn’t until after this occurred and I was talking to my Colombian roommate that he mentioned local paydays as being particularly dangerous. Being aware of something so simple as the date can help you take further precautions. In this case, I could’ve gone to the DAS office the day before, and maybe avoided the situation altogether.

I just published some tips for safely taking taxis in Latin America. I’m sure they can be applied in any country though. http://gobackpacking.com/2011/06/23/safety-tips-taking-taxis-latin-america/

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roy | cruisesurfingz.com June 23, 2011 at 9:02 pm

Wow, that’s aweful. I was robbed by 2 kids in Peru this year. I resisted and they got away with my wallet. I was just dumb to wear an expensive watch and be by myself in an alley way. So I was lucky, considering…

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Dave June 24, 2011 at 4:05 am

Hey Roy, sorry to hear you were robbed this year too. I don’t typically wear a watch for this exact reason. And when I do, it’s a Casio Pathfinder which has a cheap, plastic look to it (despite being a sweet watch).

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Erin in Costa Rica June 24, 2011 at 4:00 am

Glad you came out of it in one piece. US Passports are worth $12,000 USD on the Chinese black market here in Costa Rica but I’m not sure why. This could be a myth perpetuated by small-time criminals with dollar signs in their eyes. But the result is that a US Passport is the most desirable item for criminals here. 

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Dave June 24, 2011 at 4:07 am

Wow Erin, thanks for sharing that. If that’s how much they can really be worth, then it’d make sense for the local thieves to be hanging out on the main route to the DAS office, where all the tourists have to go to get their visas renewed.

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Rqubed June 24, 2011 at 5:52 pm

A conversation my friends and I had after I posted your blog on google buzz….

Rafferty - We all make mistakes, but this guy has been living in Medellin for 3 years? Sounds like an amateur.6/23ryan  - its not like he was walking down a dark alley at 1 am by himself. Seems like he made the mistake of using his phone inside of a taxi cab on a busy intersection at 11am. I guess I am not sure how ‘pros’ handle that situation? maybe you can only use your phone inside of a locked room without windows.Edit7:44 amRafferty - No, but to be honest, using a blackberry in sight in Medellin. Stopped vehicle and who knows what part of town he was in. In Colombia it is one of the most common form of theft, when you are in the taxi. Also, I would never have a blackberry in Colombia out in a busy street or anywhere for that matter, just asking to get robbed.Having the windows down is ok, but I wouldn’t ever do it if I was scrolling my blackberry, and I mean, then there is the chance of that happening.Who carries their passport in a foreign country? Especially one where you have the possibility of being robbed? If he needed it at the bank, Colombian banks would accept U.S. driver’s license and most places accept a copy. I only carry the passport if it is absolutely necessary because when someone pulls a gun on me, I don’t want to lose it.7:56 amRafferty - Unfortunately if you live in Colombia I think you should be aware of this. I bet you know Colombian would have been doing that.7:58 amRafferty - no*7:58 amRafferty - The guy also said he “alwauys” carries his passport in his back left pocket?? Moron.8:07 amryan  - point taken ;)Edit8:17 amRafferty - Haha, I also wanted to say… I can’t believe he filed a police report! Police will not do anything, just a pure waste of time.8:22 amR - the police report helps get a new passport, travel insurance, etc. and medellin isn’t this anal cove of miscreants, it’s like using your iphone in new york or w/e. and he was carrying his passport b/c he was going to extend his visa or smthn… can’t do that w/ a copy.10:16 amryan  - nothing better than a convo of Ryans bickering over travel. I am sure nate bake would love to comment on this, he had his passport stolen in central america a couple of years ago. Nate had all his valuables in his backpack while traveling on a bus. First dude is about to get off, reaches up in the over head bin and slides the bag all the way across to the other side to a guy waiting to grab it and run. Now that is Moronic. I still believe using your phone in a cab is not.Edit10:25 amR - not bickering just dislike the notion of ‘omg teehee moron!’ lonely planet says cellphone left is common zomg rookie doctorine. its like these travelers who strap all their money into this man purse chest strap pouch and take 2 minutes to pay for a 10 cent coconut b/c they’re fucking scared of getting robbed. i’d rather take a 0.002% expectation of getting jacked of my 200$ over being this paranoid self-important fuckwad and it’s not even close.nobody wants to fuck your kids.10:37 am (edited 10:38 am)R- k now i’m bickering.it’s the meta issue i hate.. this fear mongering that percolates down into every-fucking-thing. if you’re that worried all the time, just stay home. i hear there’s a new grays anatomy on tonight. maybe call in for a pizza, just keep the door chained. maybe surf the internet. but don’t open any suspicious messages. don’t click on any links. make sure you shred your mail. better double check the windows, too.==”The patio was crowded, so we sat inside at the snack bar. All around us were people I had spent ten years avoiding — shapeless women in wool bathing suits, dull-eyed men with hairless legs and self-conscious laughs, all Americans, all fearsomely alike. These people should be kept at home, I thought; lock them in the basement of some goddamn Elks Club and keep them pacified with erotic movies; if they want a vacation, show them a foreign art film, and if they still aren’t satisfied, send them into the wilderness and run them with vicious dogs.” – H.S.T.11:04 amJ G - I used my cell phone in Cartagena and Bogota for my GPS a couple of times. No one looked at me crazy or bothered me. I wouldn’t have done the same on a lonely street in the middle of the night. So, shit happens and I definitely would have used a cell phone in a taxi, and I rode with people that did. That is just plain bad luck.11:19 amryan  - beautiful quote ryEdit11:47 amJared - “Aside from the passport, these were the things I normally carried around with me.”11:47 am

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Dave June 24, 2011 at 6:29 pm

Hi, thanks for sharing the conversation. I’m not sure if I should be offended at some points, nor am I clear who is saying what, but just to clarify…

I always carry gum in my back left pocket, not my passport.

I only carry my passport when it is absolutely necessary, and on June 15 I was en route to the DAS office to get a 30-day extension on my tourist visa. There was no way around it — I needed the original to get the stamp.

Also, if you’re a foreigner, you also need your original passport when flying in Colombia, even if it’s just domestically. So for example, I went to Santa Marta and the coast for 2 weeks before this occurred, and I had to take it with me because I prefer to fly instead of take the long buses.

As far as using the Blackberry in public, I’m hardly the only one. Blackberries are very popular among professionals and the wealthy in Colombia, and the locals get robbed of them too.

If/when I get a new smartphone, I will just have to be more careful, as it’s expensive to keep losing them. That said, a Colombian friend of mine suggested I could’ve been robbed whether or not I had the Blackberry in my lap in the taxi. The reality is thieves see a white guy and assume he’s got money…or valuables…enough of which make robbing him worth their while. That June 15 is payday in Colombia made that day especially dangerous according to my Colombian roommate.

The part of Belen that I was in is not at all what I’d consider a dangerous part of the city, otherwise I wouldn’t have had my Blackberry out. I’m not totally ignorant of where I live and the risks involved, though over time, I may have gotten a little complacent.

I knew that posting my full story would invite some criticism….that I somehow invited this to happen. I’m not trying to be the victim here, but on the other hand, hell yes I did feel victimized and violated as a result of this experience. Criticizing someone whose life has just been threatened (and calling them a “moron”) seems unnecessary. It’s a shitty thing to happen to anyone.

And of course I knew nothing would come of filing a police report, but I wanted that documentation as proof the police know what’s happening to tourists and foreigners in their neighborhood, as well as for filing an application for a new passport at the US embassy.

If it happens often enough, yes it will invite media scrutiny, which can bring about change. The Colombia Reports article on the spate of robberies in Bogota’s La Candelaria district is a perfect example (was even cited in a New York Times article). http://colombiareports.com/colombia-news/news/15717-tourists-to-bogota-sexually-assaulted-held-hostage-during-series-of-hotel-robberies.html

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Michael M. June 25, 2011 at 3:58 am

Dave,

Glad you made it out in one piece. Unfortunately these things can happen anywhere so you are right not to let it sour you on Colombia. In all our travels the only place we have been a crime victim was in the bucolic Cotswolds in England. Go figure.

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Dave June 25, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Thanks Michael. This experience really taught me that it can happen when you least expect it, and I certainly don’t want to live in fear of getting robbed 24/7.

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Dave June 25, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Thanks Michael. This experience really taught me that it can happen when you least expect it, and I certainly don’t want to live in fear of getting robbed 24/7.

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Peter Heck June 26, 2011 at 12:20 am

Firstly, glad that you are ok mate  Shitty thing to have happen to you for sure.  Karma will bite this guy in the ass at some point.

Despite being diligent sometimes there is nothing you can do. I agree that your instinct to just hand over what they are looking for was the right one.  You can replace the things.  You can’t replace you.

I fully expect at some point to be held up, it’s just comes with the risks of traveling full time.  And the fear isn’t going to stop me.

I wish you safe travels in the future and that you are not confronted with this again.

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Dave June 25, 2011 at 11:42 pm

Thanks Peter. To some degree, I’d already prepared myself to be confronted and robbed, though I was expecting it to happen when I got to Ecuador!

Knowing it will happen at some point takes a little bit of the sting out of it too.

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Ayngelina June 28, 2011 at 3:20 am

Wow Dave. Unfortunately theft is part of the traveling gig, as I know you know. I have been robbed three times but fortunately never with a gun which would be petrifying. I agree with you, if someone wants your stuff, just give it to them.

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Dave June 28, 2011 at 8:09 pm

Thanks Ayngelina. I’ve had my pocket picked in Bali and Barcelona, but as annoying as it was, there was no feelings of fear or anxiety that lingered afterward. Where did your thefts occur?

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SHABL Rob June 29, 2011 at 10:35 am

Crazy but a good story for the grand kids.

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Kelly July 14, 2011 at 11:38 pm

Hey Dave, sorry to hear that happened to you. Medellin, Colombia is still on my list of places to visit along with Cartagena. Luckily, I’ve never had my passport stolen, but a girl I was walking with had hers pick-pocketed our first day in Ecuador. I was told, at the time, that U.S. passports are worth $10,000. With regard to being robbed at gunpoint while inside a taxi, I know while I was traveling in Brazil, drivers never stopped at red lights; they merely honked their horns to warn traffic and continued through the intersection. When I asked why, they said it’s because there’s a high risk of carjacking if your vehicle is stopped. Sadly, my friend’s sister was carjacked at gunpoint by a fruit vendor on the freeway leaving the Rio de Janeiro airport. She’d just arrived in Brazil (from California). Literally everything was stolen (the car, her money, passport, clothes), but she escaped with her life.

Safe Travels,
~Kelly
hiptraveler

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Dave July 15, 2011 at 5:46 pm

Hi Kelly, thanks. Needless to say, I’m going to be on especially high alert for the foreseeable future.

Carjackings use to be a huge safety issue in South Africa too, so it’s not uncommon for drivers to pass through red lights there as well. I think it had gotten better by the time I was there (2008), but I still felt more on edge traveling there than I did my first 6 months in Colombia (2009).

Medellin and Cartagena are wonderful cities, and I hope you get to enjoy them soon too!

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Dave July 15, 2011 at 5:46 pm

Hi Kelly, thanks. Needless to say, I’m going to be on especially high alert for the foreseeable future.

Carjackings use to be a huge safety issue in South Africa too, so it’s not uncommon for drivers to pass through red lights there as well. I think it had gotten better by the time I was there (2008), but I still felt more on edge traveling there than I did my first 6 months in Colombia (2009).

Medellin and Cartagena are wonderful cities, and I hope you get to enjoy them soon too!

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Lori July 31, 2011 at 1:46 am

Wow. I can’t believe that happened to you. I give you a lot of credit for staying. I was robbed at knifepoint in Quito and nearly deported after customs officials found drugs on my bus into Ecuador, and I decided to skip heading to Colombia viajando sola. After reading your blog, I think my decision was justified… Hope the rest of your stay goes nice, easy and seguro!!

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Dave August 1, 2011 at 1:56 am

Thanks Lori. I’ve heard tons more theft stories about Quito then Colombia, but the difference seems to be Ecuadorians use a knife whereas Colombians are more likely to have a gun. Either way, I am crossing my fingers for safe travels in Ecuador (I was originally going to skip the whole country).

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Catoni52 September 20, 2011 at 11:46 pm

It probably wasn’t a silver revolver.  I don’t know if silver has ever been used to make a gun.  Most likely either a stainless steel revolver, or nickle-plated regular steel. Scary thing to have happen definitely. I would have had the shakes afterwards.
    Glad you’re okay and back home. You did the right thing just letting him have your stuff. Things can be replaced, even if with difficulty. Our lives can never be replaced. Thanks for all your efforts with the blog.

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Dave September 22, 2011 at 9:13 pm

Agreed…I was just saying “silver” for lack of a better word. Stainless steel sounds more like it. Whatever it was made of, it certainly didn’t look like it cost much.

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JUANCORNEJO September 21, 2011 at 8:36 am

HOLA DAVID
 YO ESTUBE DE VICITA , EN LA MISMA EPOCA  EN MEDELLIN.
  VICITABA A UNA AMIGA Y TU HISTORIA  ES LA MISMA QUE YO TUBE EN MEDELLIN.
 A LA MISMA  HORA.

          YO  CON MI AMIGA  FUIMOS A CAMBIAR UNOS DOLARES AL  MALL.

    A MI ME ASALTARON  A 400  METROS ANTES DE PASAR EL TOLL EN MEDELLIN.
     ME LLEVABAN A CONOCER UNA PARCELA AL PENOL.
       MI AMIGA MANEJABA EL  JEEP , Y YO ESTABA  A SU LADO.
       AL LLEGAR CERCA DEL TOLL , MI AMIGA PREPARO EL DINERO PARA PAGAR
       Y ME LO ENTREGO PARA CUANDO ESTUBIERAMOS FRENTE YO LE PASARA
         EL DINERO Y ASI MANEJAR MAS TRANQUILA, ES ESE MOMENTO
           SE JUNTARON MUCHOS AUTOS Y CAMIONES  PARA PASAR EL TOLL
           MI AMIGA EN ESE MOMENTO BAJO EL VIDRIO PARA   ESTAR MAS COMODA
             PARA PAGAR, 
            EN ESE MOMENTO  FRENTE AL VIDRIO HABIA UNA PISTOLA , CON UN HOMBRE
             MONTADO EN UNA MOTOCICLETA CON OTRO ADELANTE COMO CHOFER
              LA PISTOLA LA TENIA EN LA MANO IZQUIERDA  ,,
              DECIA QUE LE ENTREGARAMOS TODO EL DINERO.
               CON LA MANO DERECHA  TRATABA DE SACAR EL SEGURO DE L;A
              PUERTA   Y JUNTO CON ESO LE PEGABA A MI AMIGA EN LA CABEZA
             CON LA CACHA DE LA PISTOLA.
              AL VER A MI AMIGA LLENA DE SANGRE  YO ME FUI EN  ENCIMA DE ELLA
          A PROTEJERLA   Y EL HOMBRE ME PONIA LA PISTOLA EN MI FRENTE Y
             ME  DECIA QUE LA DEJARA .
           EL TRATABA DE HABRIR LA PUERTA  Y A LA VES ME PEGABA CON LA
            PISTOLA.
             YO EN NINGUN MOMENTO  SOLTE A MI AMIGA  E HICE  RESISTENCIA
             A QUE NO LA SACARAN  DEL AUTO.

               ELLA Y  YO SANGARABAMOS MUCHO  PERO YO NO  ME RENDIA.

            ERA A LA MISAMA HORA DE TI.
           HABIAN  MUCHOS AUTOS Y CAMIONES   Y NADIE SE METIA  A DEFENDER

             POR SUERTE COMO SE JUNTARON MUCHOS AUTOS  A LOS LADRONES

            SE LES TERMINO EL TIEMPO Y SALIERON  HUYENDO TAPANDO CON

            LAS MANOS LA PATENTE.

               COMO YA  CASI ESTABAMOS FRENTE AL PAGO DEL TOLL

               NOS PERMITIERON  PONER EL AUTO A UN LADO DONDE LLEGO

              LOS PRIMEROS  AUXILIOS , A  ATENDER A MI AMIGA QUE  SU CABEZA

              SANGRABA MUCHO.

              TAMBIEN LLEGARON LOS POLICIAS  Y DIERON LA EXCUSA  QUE ELLOS

             NO ESTABAN EN EL TOLL  PORQUE HABIAN BAJADO VUSCANDO A OTROS

               MI  AMIGA RECIVIO VARIOS  PUNTOS Y QUEDO CON SU CARA
             MUY MALTRATADA.

               LOS GOLPES QUE YO RECIVI  HICIERON MUCHOS MORETONES.

            DESPUES , TODOS LOS COLOMBIANOS QUE CONVERCE , ME DECIAN

             QUE TUBE SUERTE  YA QUE  AQUI NADIE HACE RESISTENCIA

              YO CREO HABER SIDO UNO DE LOS UNICOS  QUE RECISTIO
              ROBARCE POR ESOS DELICUENTE COLOMBIANOS

                   !!!  QUE SON MILES EN MEDELLIN !!

         LO MAS TRISTE   DE TODO PARA MI  FUE QUE CUANDO REGRESE A  USA.

              DONDE VIVO .

        LOS   COLOMBIANOS QUE ME PREGUNTARO SOBRE MI VIAJE
 
            ME DIJERON QUE YO  LO ESTABA EXSAJERANDO.

             QUE EN MEDELLIN  NO PASA ESO Y ELLOS Y TODAS SUS

            FAMILIAS CAMINAN SIN PROBLEMAS  POR LA CIUDAD.

                 YO TENGO FOTOS Y VIDEOS 

                LASTIMAS POR LOS COLOMBIANOS  QUE CADA DIA  SON

                MAS MALOS  !!!!
                 
              YO ENTIENDO POR LA POBRESA DE ESA CIUDAD  .
         TODO EL QUE VIAJE A MEDELLIN  TENGA MUCHO CUIDADO.  !!!
           YO HE VIAJADO POR MUCHOS PAISES DEL MUNDO

        JUAN   CORNEJO

      

          
     
         
            
       
   

Reply

Dave September 22, 2011 at 9:16 pm

Gracias por tu estoria Juan, y lo siento por tu experiencia mala.

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