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Beware of Carnaval thieves! Police offer advice to expats and tourists to avoid pick-pockets

Thieves love Carnaval. That’s the message the National Police want to send to everyone planning to attend events during the five-day holiday, particularly to tourists and foreign residents.

According to police, most pick-pocketing occurs during Carnaval spray foam fights.

“Carnaval is the most lucrative time of year for thieves, particularly for pick-pockets,” says Alex Fuentes, a captain in the Cuenca district police command. “With all the activities scheduled through next Tuesday, Cuenca is one of their favorite destinations.”

He adds that foreigners are the thieves’ favorite targets. “They know that tourists and expats carry more valuables in their pockets than the locals.”

According to Fuentes, there were more personal robberies reported during last year’s Carnaval holidays than during the entire remainder of the year. “Last year, on the last day of Carnaval, we caught two thieves at the bus station with 250 cell phones, 40 cameras and $7,000 in cash,” he said. “Almost all of this came out of the pockets of the victims during Carnaval events — and this was from just two thieves.”

Fuentes says a few simple precautions can save Carnaval partiers and spectators money and grief. “Most important, take as few valuables as possible to the events,” he says. “Do not take more cash with you than is absolutely necessary and keep it and cell phones in secure, interior pockets of your clothing. Be aware that most thefts occur in crowded situations, especially during the spray foam fights where people are bumping into each other. Be aware that one of the thieves’ favorite tactics is to spray victims in the face, so wear glasses or goggles if possible.”

Fuentes strongly advises against bringing large cameras to Carnaval events. “Last year, almost 100 cameras were reported stolen, some of them valued at more than $1,000 and most of the victims were foreigners. If you want to take photos, use your cell phone or a small camera and return it to a secure pocket after you use it.”

According to Fuestes, more police will be stationed at Carnaval events this year than ever before. “We are adding more than 200 personnel in an effort to prevent robberies,” he says, adding: “It is still up to the people attending the various events to protect themselves. Don’t make yourself an easy target.”