Last Saturday Plaza, I was in Plaza El Terronal in the corner by Casa Gala and members of the Panama National Police were playing music. The purpose of the entertainment was to draw Panamanians to listen to a talk on individual security practices. I took a short video with my iPhone.
The we’re passing out the following pamphlet. (Click to enlarge photos)
The official, in the photo to the left, presented the pamphlet and talked about a growing number of crimes in Plaza El Terronal, neighboring shopping areas, and also mentioned that young gangs that are moving around Chiriquí.
The presentation was given in behalf of Comercios Vigalantes, which is an organization of businesses and is similar to a neighborhood watch (Vecinos Vigalantes).
Let me cover some of the points of the talk and the pamphlet.
As shown in the third photo, of the pamphlet above, a large number of thefts occur in public place such as Parque Cervantes. The primary targets are laptops and all sorts of cell phones (Blackberrys, iPhones, and other smart phones). They watch for people being careless and do a snatch and grab. Often these are done in teams. One will distract and the other in the team will do the snatch and grab.
Another thing that has been happening in the parking lot of Plaza El Terronal and other parking areas, is that they will watch for people exiting their cars. Prior to a person locking their car, they open a rear door and have access to the interior when the individual leaves.
The other warning that was given was related to using ATMs. Again, many of the robberies are done in teams. They may station a person inside the bank to watch for significant transactions. Then they will follow the individual who has mad a large withdrawal and rob them in another location.
They warned to always be aware if someone is watching you when you are getting money. They also said to never get money at night from an ATM.
It has been noticed that many of the thieves are getting more bold. Some are dressing as police and knocking on doors to get admittance into the house. If you did not call the police, do not admit them. Call the police to see if they dispatched police to your area.
Now there is no question but what crime has increased since I moved here in 2003. However, still most of the crime is one of opportunity created by the carelessness of individuals.
Many have windows without bars, which is an open invitation for thieves, and to make it worse, many leave them open and unlocked. Many leave doors unlocked. Many use maids and gardeners and some are foolish enough to allow the maids to have a key. If a maid has a key or a code to your alarm, you might as well assume so does her boyfriend, brother or some other person.
Many single foreigners (both men and women) come to Panama and find relationships with younger Panamanians. Many thefts can be traced to that relationship or friends of that relationship.
Crime increasing has also provided the opportunity of some security businesses to crop up. Some of these companies are using fear mongering as a means of promoting sales of their equipment. My recommendation is to be careful in the selection of security providers. Remember, you are opening your house up to them to know your vulnerabilities and if they are not trustworthy, well you figure it out.
I have found Panama to be a great place to live. However, I live cautiously and recommend you do the same. I took similar security precautions in the US. The only difference was I didn’t have bars where I lived in the US. I do in Panama.