A frightening incident occurred outside of Cibao International Airport when a group of men dressed as police officers robbed a group of U.S tourists. Among the stolen goods were cell phones, clothes, and more than $15.000 in cash.
The robbery occurred early Sunday morning after a family of 4 U.S tourists – including two children – left Cibao International Airport. According to police reports, the family was headed to the Dominican Republic for their summer vacation in the town of Chtupú, La Vega. Three other people, presumably other family members, came to pick them up from the airport. In total, the group was carrying a hefty load with them: 10 suitcases, up to $15.000 dollars in cash, clothing items, and mobile phones.
Just minutes after arrival, the group made their way out of Cibao International Airport and encountered a group of four criminals dressed as police officers somewhere in the vicinity of the airport. After exiting a Ford Runner SUV, the “police officers” prompted the victims to hand them all of their belongings, after which they made a hasty escape.
Fortunately, law enforcement officials were able to track the criminals, who were caught in Manga Larga, close to La Vega, and all the stolen items were recovered. The police are currently launching an investigation into the incident.
The victims were reportedly furious at the incident and at authorities’ initial inaction. After being robbed, they immediately headed to the nearest police station in La Vega, only to encounter inattentive staff, who took up to four hours to address their complaint. It appears the victims had family in the Dominican Republic, and for one of the travelers, it had been 10 years since he had last visited the country.
With millions expected to visit the Dominican Republic over the next few months, organized crime groups are resorting to sophisticated tactics to rob unsuspecting tourists. This week’s incident shows the length that some criminal elements are willing to go in order to make a quick buck.
It is no secret that crime – especially petty crime – has been on the rise in the Dominican Republic in recent years. With the full removal of all covid-19 restrictions, tourist numbers are increasing in popular resort areas such as Punta Cana, Puerto Plata, and Santo Domingo and with that, a corresponding rise in muggings and assault. To deter crimes affecting tourists, earlier this year the President announced that more specialized law enforcement units would be deployed to monitor touristy areas.
This Sunday’s shocking robbery raises alarms over the public’s trust in police officers. With several different police forces operating in the country, including a special tourist body known as politur, local officials will be keeping an eye on similar incidents in the future. Tourist police are easily identifiable thanks to their uniform, consisting of a white shirt and dark blue pants.
Authorities from the National Tourism Agency have issued several safety tips for tourists headed to the Dominican Republic. Some of the most sought-after items by thieves include passports, identity cards, and credit cards, which should be kept in a secure location. It is recommended to avoid wearing valuables in public such as jewelry, mobile phones, and luxury bags. Moreover, avoid straying into lesser touristy neighborhoods, where fewer police agents are present.
According to the U.S Department of State, the Dominican Republic currently has a level two travel advisory, meaning while it is generally a safe destination, tourists should exercise increased precaution. They also note that violent crimes, including armed robbery and homicide, remain major issues across the country, especially in the vicinity of the Dominican-Haitian border.
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