Tag Archives: Bolivian police

How did I manage to learn about the computer game Grand Theft Auto in a Bolivian Police Station?

5 Jul

I usually like to avoid the police when travelling except the Chilean police who are a delight and even take you for empanadas!

However, in Bolivia this became unavoidable when my travel companion had his bag nicked.

So how do the police here deal with such a crime and how did I manage to meet both the wife and baby of the thief and learn about the computer game Grand Theft Auto all in a Bolivian police Station?

Well it all happened in Sucre.

We arrived on the early morning bus from Potosi. Now if ever there is a time when you feel vulnerable it is when carrying all your gear around looking for a hostel.

Things got off to a bad start when the first place we arrived at was locked up and no amount of knocking would persuade the owners to come out.  So off we trekked to price some other hostels and for some reason the guide books were totally wrong and the hostels had more than doubled in price since 2009.  Bizarre.

Anyway we arrived at a street corner, not far from the Supreme Court and my travel companion took out his map to check where we were depositing his small rucksack in front of him.  For some reason I clocked a guy wearing a green t-shirt who made eye contact with me while I looked at the map (this later turned out to be the thief).  A mere few seconds later the bag had gone….we saw nothing.  This was the work of professionals.

We asked around and were then approached by a lady from the pharmacy across the road who told my travel companion that the thief was wearing a black jacket and pointed him out at the top of the road.

My travel companion made hot pursuit. He tackled the thief twice in Bolivar Park, right in front of the Supreme Court and was then assisted by a passer by to restrain him. The police arrived immediately.  The thief promptly burst into tears and phoned his mate for return of the bag.

Somehow by the time we got into the back of the police van the bag had re-appeared.  It seems likely that there was more than one involved and the bag had maybe been stashed somewhere.

But this is where things got a bit bizarre…

We were put into the back of the police van with the thief (who was wearing a green t-shirt under a black jacket..cunning).  The thief was directed to carry the rucksack which had by now been put into a white cloth sack by the police.

We arrived at the police station.  The thief was directed to carry the rucksack in.  We all went into one room where there were a few computers and lots of police officers, most dressed in casual clothes.

The thief was directed to stand against a wall a few feet from us while my travel companion gave a statement of what had happened.  While my travel companion was giving his statement the thief constantly mouthed to me “sorry”.

The thief then started texting on his mobile. At this point he was told to “Apagar” (“turn off”).

He had his mug shots taken in the same room on a mobile telephone.

He was interviewed by the police in the same room and right in front of us.

He had custody of the rucksack, again in the same room, throughout this process…strange no?

He examined a cut on his leg,again in the same room, sustained when he fell during being accosted by my travel companion.

Man it pays to travel with a hero.

Then, his wife and child arrived.  They were allowed to sit right next to us.  She was distraught.  She touched me on the knee repeatedly and asked my travel companion not to “denounce” her husband.

When my travel companion had to go into another room to provide a second statement she sat with her hand on my knee, crying and saying sorry.  This was all quite bizarre.  All in the presence of their tiny baby in a sling who she fed in front of me.

Now the next part of the process involved working out whether there was anything missing from the bag.

This was quite a process.

The police had ridiculously good fun playing with my friend’s camera lenses and trying to zoom in on stuff in the police station.  But they didn’t need zoom to see what their colleague was playing on the computer throughout the process..and that is how I came to know the game Grand Theft Auto.

Now I’m not a fan of computer games but my travel companion reliably informed me that this game involves you playing the role of a criminal and stealing things or killing people, escaping from the police and the like.  Now exactly what a police officer should watch I would think! Especially in the presence of victims of crime…random….

After a few hours at the police station the scenario came to a quick end with my travel companion being asked to sign a document which stated he did not want to penally prosecute the thief on the grounds that the bag and all contents were fully recovered.  Instead the police informed us that he would receive a “sanction” of some sort..

And then it was back to the Grand Theft Auto competition in Sucre Police Station and we checked the map (with our rucksacks on) for another hostel and made it there without further incident…

And that was how I learned about the computer game Grand Theft Auto and met the family of a thief in a Bolivian Police Station…

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