National and local police are warning that thieves in Cuenca have introduced new strategies to separate victims from their money. Although they say most of the new tricks do not involve physical assault, the threat of violence always exists during robberies.
Three cases have been reported in which thieves use dogs to intimidate victims. “They release a large dog that approaches the victim in a menacing manner and then appear to come to the victim’s rescue,” says Wilson Ortega of the Cuenca Citizen Guard. “In the recent cases, the dog jumps on the victim but does not bite and when the thieves pull the dog back and begin to clean the victim’s clothing they steal his money and belongings.”
An arrest was made in one dog attack case on Calle Antonio Farfán but police believe at least one more group of thieves and their dog remains at large.
Another trick reported in several recent weeks involves a large amount of cash left beside a sidewalk, usually in a secluded area. The thieves position the cash, usually $100 counterfeit bills, in an easily visible spot and when the victim stops to pick it up they emerge from hiding places to say they had already seen it. According to police, the thieves then agree to split the money with the victim in exchange for some “good faith money,” telling the victim she is getting many times more than she is sharing with the thieves.
Police have also received several reports of what is commonly known as the “mustard trick” in recent weeks. In these cases, an unknowns substance – usually pigeon poop, mud, mayonnaise or mustard — is thrown onto the victim, often from an overhanging balcony, and when the thieves appear to clean the victim they also clean him of his wallet, cameras and bags.
Police encourage victims to report all crimes, saying that the majority go unreported, making apprehension of criminals more difficult.