Venezuela has seen soaring crime rates over the past few years and the nation's capital, Caracas, has earned the titled of the third most violent city in the world, according to a study by the Citizen Council for Public Safety and Criminal Justice. Interestingly enough, the thieves in Venezuela are forgoing jewelry and electronics for an odd item to steal: human hair.
Women with long hair in Maracaibo, Venezuela are being warned by authorities to be careful when they wear their hair down. The mayor of the town, Eveling de Rosales, addressed the new hair-centric crime wave stating that "men and women were being placed to guard and avoid this happening again." Local news outlets are reporting that a group, who have earned the name "piranhas," are trying to steal women's hair.
The thieves are reportedly holding women up at gunpoint at malls and forcing them to tie their hair into a ponytail, making it easier for them to cut it off, according to Venezuelan digital newspaper Informe 21. The hair is then sold to beauty salons to be made into hair extensions. And it's not just any hair they seek -- the group has a preference for straight hair.
Globovision shares a story of a woman, Mariana Rodriguez, who recalls being ambushed by two women in a mall in her city three months ago. She narrates that they asked her to get off her phone and took scissors and chopped off her hair before she could think or run.
According to Jhonatan Morales, a hair stylist in Venezuela, hair extensions have become increasingly popular in Venezuela and the use of extensions has spiked by 30 percent. But Morales tells Globovision that his salon doesn't use hair from street vendors since they don't know the source of the hair.
The surge in hair thievery can be explained by the growing demand, and subsequent pricing, of natural hair extensions. The price of hair extensions varies by the quality of the hair, with natural hair costing significantly more money than artificial hair. The prices vary based depending on hair type, fiber and hair color. According to Morales, hair extensions come in packs of 20 points and each pack can range in price. Due to the demand, hair dressers are willing to shell out big bucks to score natural straight hair.
While stealing hair is not considered a crime in Venezuelan law, the steps the thieves are taking when acquiring the hair can put them in jail. After all, the thieves are threatening women, in addition to psychological violence, false imprisonment and any injury while cutting the hair.
In light of the recent hair attacks, the mayor is asking women to avoid walking around with their hair down or in a ponytail, and to wear a hat or helmet. They're also recommending women who seek hair extensions to question their salon about the source of their hair extensions.