Avoiding robbery overseas.

While talking to friends who have been robbed, they regularly bring up two common robbery methods. The first is for robbers to get police badges and set up fake checkpoints and dump your bags on a table while inspecting them, then steal your electronics when you’re distracted by picking up the rest of your stuff. The other is to point a gun at you and demand all your money. Both are quite effective in their own ways.

I’ve been very fortunate in that I enjoy exploring out of the way places and exploring new cities at night but still have my credit card, phone, and money. I have had two attempted robberies but they were both so poorly executed that I am annoyed more than anything. While even the straightest river eventually has a bend, I’m fairly certain I won’t ever become a robber. If I was, I would be embarrassed to be associated with these two. The first attempt involved a very limp threat, the second involved a rookie who couldn’t even do the first step right.

I enjoyed exploring downtown Salvador at night. Downtown was amazing when not shared with tourists and had its own atmosphere after nightfall. This was due to the high crime rates keeping people away. On this night I was roughly a block away from the hostel heading towards Largo Terreira de Jesus when a man approached me. I ignored him at first as I do most people, but then he stepped in my path and pulled out a knife. He showed me a grotesque and long scar on his forearm, then informed me that he had a knife and AIDS. I’m assuming that the scar and the AIDS were connected somehow but he never elaborated on the scar. His accent was a strong and my Portuguese wasn’t great, but the gist of the rest of the conversation was that he would cut me and give me AIDS if I didn’t give him money. He was old and wobbly and I felt that I could easily push him down before he could stab. I felt bad for him. I gave him one real (worth thirty cents) but he just threw it back at me and yelled something. I walked away and enjoyed the rest of my night.

The second incident happened on a bus. A common theft technique is to make someone touch their head or shoulders and then pickpocket them while they’re distracted and with their hands away from their pockets. The bus was very crowded and the people getting on and off at stops resembled a kicked anthill. I was standing by the door and had one hand up holding the bar for balance when I felt a hand on my hip. I immediately reached for my pocket and brushed a hand. I looked around but there were too many people getting on and off to see who it was. I was checking my pocket to make sure my phone and money was still in there (it was) when someone handed me a tissue and told me there was something on my jacket. Apparently the would-be pickpocketer put honey on my hood to distract me, but never touched my shoulder or actually distracted me. He couldn’t even get the first step right and now I had a messy jacket because of him. I really think that the honey bit is unnecessary if you’re robbing someone. It’s just adding insult to injury. What if I was meeting someone new? Or had somewhere important to be?

At any rate, I still have all my stuff plus two dumb stories. Rookies.

Authors note: I wrote this nearly three years ago in my journal but I’m just posting it now. Since then I’ve had six more robbery attempts of either me or my place of work. So far they’ve got a mirror and nothing else.

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