Police to crack down on “Wild West” style salmon heists in Chile

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In Chile, bandits are operating in the “Bermuda Triangle” of salmon robberies.

On the 23rd of Jan 2019, in broad daylight, five armed men seized a truck parked in the Biobío region, in the heart of Chile’s salmon farming hub. They tied up the driver and made off with 22,500 kilos of salmon. He’s not the first and he won’t be the last.

Talking to El Mecurio, Biobío governer Ignacio Fica described it as an isolated event. But SalmonChile – the country’s salmon-producers association – said it was something of an everyday occurrence, with one particular route (Route 5, between Mulchén and Los Angeles) being one of the most dangerous places.

Representing SalmonChile, lawyer Matías Ruiz-Tagle said: “Today the worst point we have is in the Biobío, between Mulchén and Los Ángeles, because it is the entrance to Concepción, and our fish moves between Chiloé-Puerto Montt (Los Lagos region) to Coronel (Biobío region).”

Targeting an area what’s been nicknamed the “Bermuda Triangle”, drug dealers and criminals are frequently hijacking salmon trucks because they see it as a risk-free and lucrative black market business.

In 2018, 378 truck thefts (not primarily salmon) were registered, which increased from 353 in 2017. Although this figure could be much higher as victims may not report the incident, the publication reported. Like the Wild West, drivers are bribed or/and beaten up if they don’t comply. Some advanced heists are committed by criminals posing as police officers who then use GPS blockers to hide the whereabouts of the truck afterward.

To combat this, the Chilean government said that it’s been working around the clock to put more police on the ground.

“The Government has privileged the treatment of truckloads as a priority,” said Chile’s Interior Minister Patricio González adding that the force will “attack this phenomenon.”