Crime And Prevention

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.

13 thoughts on “Crime And Prevention

  1. Just read an article that said that a widow used to keep her car keys on the bedstand at night. Her reasoning was that if she heard anything unusual or felt someone was in her home she would set off the panic button and it would alarm and her neighbors would call the police or at least check on her. An idea that sounds good to me here in the USA. Might work in Panama too!
    At least worth a try. Jan

  2. Tasers and stun guns are reportedly legal in Panama. The easiest way to obtain one is to order it online (worth mentioning is that some stateside outfits will not ship to a foreign addresses so you need to use a mail forwarder). Here is a link to some information on the subject.…uery=stun%2Bgun

    Best of luck to all finding the tools needed to protect yourself and your family.


  3. Thanks for this level headed commentary with practical solutions on the issue.
    Don and I are in the final stages of preparing for our permanent move to Panama within the next six months.
    As I began reading about the “rash” of home invasions in Panama, I had to re-anchor myself in logical perspective about what’s going on.
    Your statements and solutions helped a great deal, and reflect what we have discussed between ourselves on the topic of taking precautions.
    Some of the streaming comments on the “Americans in Panama” yahoo group had me especially spooked. Although, as I took a step back, I realized that some people’s reactions sounded like macho posturing re: guns, and blasting them bad guys all to smitherens, etc. “OK Corral” kinda of stuff.
    Here’s a thought, if you do decide to purchase a gun, or guns, for home defense, don’t brag about it. Better to hold that kind of information “close to the vest”. No pun intended.
    To a bad guy, a rolex might mean a few dollars in his pocket, but a gun is a valuable new tool. Much more desirable in the long run.

    I have carried a stun gun, both here in Oregon, as well as in San Francisco. Taking nighttime writing workshop classes, as well as having worked in the bar/club business (in my youth). At least a possible temporary deterrent. Never had to use it.
    Anyway, thanks again Don Ray. Think my pulse is slowing back to normal in preparation for this upcoming major move to a new country. Still love Panama.
    (Fortunately, being Oregonians, our tendency is to dress down. Comfy and casual is the prevailing fashion here. Should help some.)

    Salud. (spelled right, I think, this time.)

  4. Don, thanks for the practical advice. I particularly like your advice to get to know the neighbors. That is so true. When we lived in Nicaragua, in a small, rural community, our neighbors were extremely helpful. Once, we hired two local men to machete our yard, and in our haste to leave for Managua, we left our side door wide open. Our closest neighbors saw that we left our door open, called our landlady, and she came over to lock our door. She even called us on our cell phone to tell us that she had locked the door for us.
    Another thing that is helpful is to learn the language and customs of the area. It is important to blend in, instead of stand out. Compassionate, cultural immersion is our key to living in a foreign country. I don’t want to live in fear. A friendly, sincere, and common sense attitude will go much further than guns and hatred.

  5. Beautifully said, Debbie.
    During all of our trips to Panama while researching our decision to move there, and taking care of getting pensionado visas, etc., we’ve had wonderful interactions with 99 & 9/10% of all Panamanians, from the hotel staff where we usually stay in Panama City, some of whom became “amigos” who we could chat with and joke with, much to our delight.
    Shop keepers, “getaway” cabin owners in the mountains, restaurant staff, and local folk just strolling down the road. Name a situation. Name an occupation, great warm people. What a wonderful, vibrant, gracious meld there is in Panama.
    My Spanish is still “baby” Spanish, but I spoke as much and as well as able at this point, and continue to study. And this was very much appreciated, and at times a point of humor, especially when I had to resort to “interpretive dance” to stumble my point across. No desire to isolate. Much desire for immersion. We’ve been really sad everytime we’ve had to leave in order to tackle the next phase back in the U.S. to prepare for our final arrival to Panama.

  6. Just a note about guns as part of your home defense strategy. As one who lived through the December ’89 Invasion and the dictatorship years leading up to it, I may have a different perspective on the value of guns in the home. I’ll never again be caught without at least one.

    That said, before you decide to get a gun, ask yourself if you are willing to use that gun to protect yourself and family by taking a human life. Don’t for a second think that simply showing your gun to a criminal will be enough. It may be, in fact researchers tell us that most of the time it is. But it’s not always enough, and you should ask yourself “When the choice becomes the bad guy hurting me or my family, or me hurting him, am I capable of hurting, perhaps killing, him?” If there is any doubt whatsoever in your mind about the answer to that question, don’t get a gun. If you do get a gun, learn to use it, and get lots of practice with it.


  7. Your article on crime really hit home. Our house was robbed 3 weeks ago, in broad daylight, and all within a 30 minute span while we were out. We usually leave the dogs at home, but on this day, took them with us. We feel that it was someone we had in to do some work, we made the cardinal mistake of leaving them unsupervised, never again.
    We do not like bars, but as of today, they are being installed, and we are considering motion lights as well. As for guns, we really don’t want one, but when your personal space is violated, by strangers, it does give you a different perspective on things, knowing that your things have been ransacked.

  8. Hi Jeff. Sorry about the problem. I have talked to a lot of people that have been hit is a 30 minute period. Good luck with your new prevention measures.

  9. ¡ Hola Don Ray et al !
    Jack mentioned using a mail forwarder.
    Here is an excellent one, Panama Net Buy, that I used quite successfully when I was a Boquetanian –
    Here’s the same page translated into inglés –
    Either of those pages can be used to get a bottom line quote on the transaction when U furnish the total amount and the weight. Just enter that information by clicking on ‘Calculator’ in the inglés version or ‘Calculadora’ in the español version. No credit card is needed. U make a deposit to their bank account to initiate the transaction, they then notify U of the balance due when Ur shipment arrives.
    Allen McDonald, El Galloviejo®

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