Recently, I posted about a couple house invasions that have occurred in Chiriquí. I didn’t do this to create panic or to cause fear in moving to Panama. I did post it to raise awareness. There are plenty publications that promote only the beauty of this country and its people and rarely will these publications have anything on crime. Why? Because their business is bringing tourists and investors to Panama and not frightening them off.
I am not trying to frighten anyone off either. I am just trying to remind people that Panama and its neighboring countries are poor by US standards, and that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Some of the discussion in the previous posts listed firearms as a solution. I am not, for myself, all that much in favor of this option, but it may be the right option for some people.
So let me just ramble a little. This may be worthwhile and it may not.
First, let me remind you that first world countries are not without crime. The disparity between “haves” and “have nots” always creates an environment for crime. Good people can be tempted. Bad people see it easier to steal than to work.
In the US, having a good alarm system (with stickers on the windows) connected to a monitoring company, will usually be sufficient. Where I lived in the Dallas area, it was less than 2 minutes from an alarm until the police showed up at your door. In those cases the crooks would simply look for houses that had not invested in a monitoring service.
In Panama, the alarm is not nearly as effective. Many of the crooks can’t even read the sign that says the house has an alarm. If you live in David, it would probably be at least 30 minutes before the police responded, assuming they can find the location. In 30 minutes a lot can happen.
Having good neighbors that care about you and the neighborhood are valuable. It pays to know your neighbors. It pays for them to have a good opinion of you.
I would bet that 80 % of all crime can be tracked back to employees that people have working for them, such as. a maid, a gardener, or someone working in the house or in a neighbor’s house, The more that people know about what you have, then more information can get into the wrong minds.
So what should you do? Dress down and not up. Leave jewelry out of site. Don’t walk around the shopping centers with your big diamond ring and Rolex watch sparkling. In the US wearing a fake Rolex might be fun. In Panama a $25 fake Rolex could cause you to lose a wrist. Letting everyone know that you have a high end Apple Mac laptop isn’t wise. You Live in Boquete and people see it all the time and they will know it is where you reside. Laptops are prime targets.
If you live in a house, or an apartment that allows it, have a dog. Dogs are better in the houses than outside the houses. Hundreds of dogs are poisoned each year out side of houses in the form of nice juicy meat. Once the 100 pound Rottweiler is dead, he will provide very little protection.
A 30 pound terrier that tells you that some one is wanting to enter the house is a much better deterrent. All houses should have motion detector outside lighting. I also believe in having the house wired with an alarm. Most people from the US don’t like bars on the windows. However, if a person can’t enter the house, he cant take anything.
Don’t invite strangers inside the house. If you have someone in the house to work on something, such as a kitchen or bathroom sink, stay with the worker. Don’t leave them unsupervised. They may not be planning on taking anything, but they can look around to see what is worth taking and to know where it is.
Know your employees. Who have they worked for? Check their references. Check on the reference’s references. Have a good working relationship with your employees, if you have any. Keep the relationship as a business relationship. This relationship needs to be one of respect, but be careful of falling victim of thinking that you are a friend and that friends don’t take from friends.
Know your neighborhood. A digital camera is a good thing to have. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it should take good photos. If you notice that a certain car parks too long and the occupants don’t do anything but sit, you might record it in a photo. If it happens again, you might call the police to check it out.
It pays to be observant of your surroundings. Better to be cautious before than after. If you are planning on taking a vacation, make sure you have a plan to protect you things. Some people should know where you are and how to get in touch with you. Some people should not.
If you live in a rural area, then you need to be doubtfully cautious. You should have dogs inside and outside. You may need a caretaker that is there when you are in David shopping or on vacation. You do need bars on the windows. Depending on the house, it is not a bad idea to have a safe room. If the dog alarm or house alarm goes off, you could have a room to go into that is secure and would allow you to call for assistance. Is this extreme. maybe, maybe not. It depends on the house.
For me a gun would be the last alternative. I don’t like guns. I have owned guns, I know guns, and I can use guns. I just think that if a gun comes into play, nothing good is going to happen. I would prefer a tazer, but I don’t know what the laws are in Panama related to tasers, nor do I know how you can get one.
This is probably enough on the subject of crime in Panama. I don’t personally think it is a big problem, if you are careful. If you are loose lipped or advertise wealth, then the problem will increase.