Las Piranas - as the hair thieves are known - are mostly female. But violence is a much deeper issue in this country. According to the UN, Venezuela now has the fifth highest murder rate in the world. Kidnappings are so common that many well-to-do families share a fund with friends, so they always have easy-to-access cash if one of their loved ones is snatched. With such high levels of crime and impunity, it is understandable that thieves try to take advantage of what has become a lucrative market.
Hair extensions don't come cheap. A full head can cost as much as 10,000 bolivares - nearly $1,500 at the official exchange rate. This means a thief can earn up to $500 for a good chunk of hair.
The hair theft phenomenon isn't as simple as it seems. So far, no formal complaints have been filed. The news stories are based on testimonies of a few victims in local media. But here in Venezuela, paranoia is rampant. In Caracas, the capital, there have been no reports of the crime. But people are already worrying. The other night, a woman told me that she wasn't sure whether it was worse for thieves to go for her hair or for her wallet.
And some women are even choosing to cut their hair before someone else snatches it. Daniel, my hairdresser, says my short, basic cut may even become fashionable soon.And fashion is what's important. Especially for millionaire Marxists.