Chiriquí Is The Most Violent Province in Panama

On today’s TeleMetro morning news the commentator was talking about the increase in violence in Panama. TeleMetro is one of the country’s most watched TV stations and the one Lilliam listens to every morning to know what is happening.

The commentator said that currently, Chiriquí is the most violent province in Panama. Let that soak in.

The bread basket of Panama, where the majority of all agricultural produce originates. The home of Boquete, listed in International Living as one of the best places to retire. Chiriquí is the most violent province in Panama.

You have most likely heard the old saying, that it is actions and not words that make a difference.

I have been thinking about that some as a result of the two recent meetings in Chiriquí. The one in David, attended by Panama’s President Varela and the one in Boquete, attended by the Panama’s Minister of Security, Rodolfo Aguilera.

I think there was a large show of new vehicles including off-road 4x4s, talk about increasing police force and other signs which implied action taken.

However, I think there is a need for some different words. The words I am talking about are words changing the law that allows juveniles to be released without punishment, independent of the crime.

The break-in in Potrerillos is a good example. The victim was left for dead during an armed robbery. A 14 year old, that was involved was picked up and then released in custody of the father.

If there is no risk of punishment, I think it is the same as providing an incentive to commit more crime. Adults can recruit young ones, plan the crimes and manage their recruits.

These crimes are not being committed by kids out for a little fun. These are planned events. They study their targets. They watch their activities and schedules. They are prepared.

I hate rumors. But a rumor that is going around is that a gang initiation requires recruits to prove themselves by taking violent action against the victim.

In the Potrerillos case, the victim had told the intruders where the laptop was and where the money was. Following that, the victim was then stabbed and shot and left for dead. Now you can say it may have been so the victim couldn’t identify the intruders. I don’t buy it.

However, evidence from other crimes say that isn’t likely, because they they are prepared to prevent themselves from being identified.

Here are a few photos from security cameras of a house in the highlands of Chiriquí. You can tell from the photos that they know there are cameras and they wore masks.

The intruders in the photos were frightened off, but the next time they may not be. The person that provided these stills had analyzed the videos and suspected that the intruders may have had been wearing protective vests. Now that is a frighting thought. They come armed and even prepared for the the owner to be armed.

I talked to the individual at the residence with the video security. More details were provided. One of the individuals was a female and shotguns were in their possession. The individual said that the house was continuously being observed by strange cars. Some license tags have been provided to the police.

I hate to be a party pooper, but I don’t think the recent meetings in Chiriqui will have any effect on the increase in crime we have been witnessing. To me it is all talk to ease the minds of the public and reduce the noise that affects tourism.

I have talked to Panamanians and they effectively say talk is cheap when it comes from elected officials. This is the same as in the U.S., but for those of us that have chosen to live here, it is very serious. In the U.S. at least they have facilities to take delinquents and don’t release them to their parents.

Changing the way the laws are written and holding juveniles and adults accountable for their crimes can have an effect. And for adults that are taking advantage of the current laws and managing juveniles, they should be held to an even more serious level of punishment.

I hate to be a prophet, but I think it is going to take a series of serious crimes followed by a real protest of the residents (both born here and immigrated here) of Panama to cause change.

My intent in writing this post is to keep raising the awareness of the problem. Ignoring the problem isn’t going to fix the problem. Officials saying they understand the concern, but they can’t do anything that would violate UN guidelines is not doing anything to help.

I don’t care how many vehicles you put on the road. I don’t care how many additional police you put out looking for criminals. If the criminals are captured and released, you have done nothing.

47 thoughts on “Chiriquí Is The Most Violent Province in Panama

  1. Thanks for that, Don. I totally agree – until something is done to change the laws and prosecute violent criminals, no matter what their age, there will be little or no change in the amount of violence. I also have a theory that since they’ve been cracking down in Panama City, some of the gangs have moved to David and are recruiting there and in the outlying areas. We all have to get very vocal and make our concerns known to anybody who’ll listen, and even those who won’t. I love this country. I don’t want to have to leave to feel safe.

  2. Non of us do Jan. That is why I am trying to keep everyone alert. If you see suspicious cars, take a photo of the license plate and give to the police. Change require everyone to make a little noise.

  3. Yes, Don, thanks for saying what we felt was the truth about crime here in Chiriquí. We were at the security meeting at the BCP last Tuesday and weren’t quite convinced when we were told that crime was less this year than last year in Chiriqui. We think keeping that awareness raised is so very important. We will have a questionnaire (for Panamanians) and a PETITION (for all) to sign regarding addressing the juvenile criminal law here. Show up at the Chiriquí Flea market on Sunday between10 and 1 to show your support for a change in a law to prosecute juveniles.

  4. We have a camera available at all times. Our little neighborhood is growing by leaps and bounds…more workers building new homes, more traffic and more suspicious characters walking up and down the street. We are well aware who the guys are working on theses houses. They come and go at the same time every day. I have even walked the neighbors dog to see where they are headed. So far…so good. If all of us remain vigilant and fight for the laws to change on these “kids”, then maybe we will have a safer place to live. These kids are committing adult crimes and should be punished as such.

  5. For eight years I have watched the new police cars and promises come and go. The harsh reality is that every one of us need to take responsibility for protecting our own property and lives. We need to organize as neighbors, secure our properties, know who is coming and going and confront “scouts.”

    Every one of the recent violent home invasions happened to houses with no security whatsoever. Until people take responsibility for their own safety, the robbers will continue to harvest the low hanging fruit. Maybe we need a “Marion’s Law” to make sure that our single men and women friends (the most vulnerable targets) are living in secure residences.

  6. Don, thank you for that article. First and foremost, we all need to realize that as individuals, we have to take action to protect our selves and our personal property. It would seem that these maleantes have absolutely no regard for life and that our “authorities” merely want to make face music and not really address the problem. I say that because the Dolega mayor was not inclined to bring in a curfew, claiming that there would be opposition to it. Yet one has been brought in in David, so in my opinion his argument holds no water. Similarly, the Provincial and Country politicians, while embarrassed, are not providing any concrete steps to deal with the problems. Yes, shiny new trucks look impessive, but if all they are used for is to take the miscreants home, well, that in itself is a problem. I get critisized a lot because of my stance on target hardening and guns for protection, but if the politicians are not going to do anything then I am afraid we may have to. It would be a shame if the only way attention was REALLY paid to this problem was a result of 2 or 3 13 year olds killed by occupants after breaking into houses. I most certainly don’t want that to happen but sometimes in extreme circumstances it may be the only option.

  7. I think we truly need to absorb the seriousness of this. To approach these thugs in vehicles while blowing your horns when a group is known to be robbing a home within your community is a very dangerous place to be putting yourselves. I fully understand and appreciate the pro-active approach…however we should not underestimate what these teen thugs can do. They are armed and wearing bullet proof vests?……consider that.

  8. Juveniles in the US that commit serious crimes are sentenced like an adult. This has not reduced the juvenile crime rate in the US. Better Education and job training is a good starting point in reducing juvenile crime. The education and job training programs in the Colon area are showing a reduction in crime in that area.

  9. jlavine – while I have no statistics to validate your assertion, in Chiriquí there is no action. I don’t know what it is really going to be done, I want to see a plan that has substance and evidence that it will be enacted. I have no problem with it including job training and education.

    That is an excellent idea and should be part of the plan. In the meantime, you can’t allow the hoodlums to continue running around killing people and telling them to “please stop that”.

  10. Yes. It will take time to get programs in place that work. Meanwhile there is no report of programs prepared to be enacted here in Chiriqui…yet. Meanwhile they are out there loose…guns in hand.

  11. I agree again, Don. I think a combination of the two – changing laws and education/vocational training could help a lot. I don’t really think arming everybody to the teeth is necessarily a good thing. Unless you are trained in quick response and able to grab your weapon immediately, they could end up in the hands of the maleantes. That’s something we don’t need. I’m not against guns, just idiots with guns.

  12. If expats want to get anyone’s attention, there is only one way. Flood the web sites selling Panama as a paradise with the truth. The tourist industry is a major part of Panama’s income. The folks who depend on tourists can bring pressure to bear on the government in ways that expats can never hope to have.

    Rallies and petitions will bring the politicos out for photo ops but as soon as they head back to the city, nothing will happen.

  13. Don, tienes toda la razón, como panameña – chiricana, conozco como trabajan los políticos, prometen y prometen, para ganar tu voto, una vez, en el poder, se les olvida lo que prometieron, el precidente Varela, ha sido un precidente, más de lo mismo, promete y no cumple, el no tiene que preocuparse por la seguridad de su familia, tiene guardaespaldas, y que pasa con el panameño común, que no tiene para pagar un seguridad.
    Don, la mayoría de estas bandas están compuestas por colombianos, venezolanos, y menores panameños , por lo obio,ahora Muchas leyes tienen que cambiar en panama, inmigración,y si estoy de acuerdo, si cometes un crimen como adulto, entonces pagas como adulto.hasta que no se reforme la ley del menor, se va a peor, ahora no es que no panameños criminales, si lo hay, pero las cuatro veces que a mi me han asaltado, han sido colombianos.

    Dios nos proteja a todos.

  14. Don,
    Great topic, and one that needs to be repeated again and again. According to Lynnie English (sic), the MS-13 organized crime syndicate gang has started to operate in certain areas in Chiriqui. I believe she suggested Volcan was one of the areas. If they are or some other organized crime gang are operating there, you can be sure that Boquete also is a target, as it is always a mecca for North Americans. Though Panamanians are victims as well, it appears that North Americans are getting more than their fair share of attention from this element. You can be sure, that the initiation to this MS gang-outfit, is to, murder someone, …as has been documented.

    Other gangs may not require a murder; but a brutal assault, rape, or maiming or crippling a victim as a gang initiation. But it appears to be that this all amounts to some kind of over-the-top violence that will offend normal human sensibilities and shock the public.

    This kind of “shock” business, is a work of instilling fear and terror. These miscreants are sending such an additional message which doesn’t just involve confiscation of money and property.

    In El Salvador, the authorities took drastic steps to considerably reduce this threat.

    No one has the temerity to do that here, although the governance of Manuel Noriega did. Crime then was pretty low. It was not unusual to see a violent criminal or petty thief found dead then, with a signature bullet hole, around the town square or other areas, as a deterrent to this type of folks. It was effective.

    Just today, it was reported here in Bugaba at the local restaurant, Sol de Mar, that you have recommended on your blog, which I have also eaten at several times, that an attempted robbery of the restaurant and possible patrons occurred last night.

    The security guard was shot dead. My mother-in-law saw the body of the victim. The police were everywhere, but no other details are forthcoming at this time.

  15. Johanna. You raise a good point. Panama are also receiving a flood of people from other countries which are also involved in this crime spree. Thanks for bringing up that point.

  16. I took a neighbor to the Volcan Hospital for an emergency yesterday, and this morning for a return visit. In the waiting room, there were several young men and women dressed in expensive, trendy, American style clothes, expensive designer sneakers, gold jewelry, and gold teeth. I’ve lived in the area for the past 4 years, and did not recognize any of these people, they kept to themselves, not smiling and chatting with the locals. It is abundantly obvious that these people are involved in some type of crime, whether gang related, or just plain old opportunists.

  17. I once found myself in the ER in south Florida. There were a group of folks in there exactly like the ones described and they were speaking a language I did not understand although it sounded to me like Yiddish?

  18. This subject and healthcare are the two most important issues anywhere. No matter the actual cost of living, they are measures of life quality. As to juvenile crime, there is evidence that with laws leading to incarceration of them along with tougher sentencing of young adults 18- 34 leads to the reduction in violent crime since the 90’s up north. Yes, you need social diversion program in the mix and to hold parents responsible too. Foreign gangs, criminalls, should be treated with a one way deportation to the other side of the Darien border without incect repellent! Unfortunately, politicians only respond to loss of power or $$. So the dream merchant sites and promotion of these issues to the foreign press in NY, London,Miami, etc., are also valid tools. Note that property values, another pressure point.. We are experience g, gypsie, expats, who are focused on Chiriqui. But, will only visit for now will be shorter term renters because of the security issue and concerns over securitu—We do not want to live as prisoners behind bars wary of police reaction…At home locks, screens, alarms cameras, community watch and yes, arms as a last resort, lead to. feeling of security backed up by comprehensive law enforcement and incarceration. We hope for true improvement for Chiriqui!

  19. J kevine i agree with you. What you ser in the oics iscegst you hve seen in the us. It started here seversl years ago ehile it has been happening many years ago.
    As mark told me notis crime will increase as the populayion grows. Psnsma has grown in population tremendously and not because ee have more kids also because our borders were opened freely. Just ask how many colombins costarricans dominicans and latly venezuelans and mexicans hsve moved to panama without insurance eithou money and jobs. Taking jobs fom psnamanians using hospitals. Its a caos. Most gngs arevtrsined by colombians and other foreiners. They recruit juvrniles who are easier to brainwash. The problem as well as soluton are more complex than what some of you think.

    In the us most people have alarm service at home. Here wr now feel the need. We are now libing what other countries exoprienced long before. We did use to be in paradise nottoo long ago.

  20. With people now needing to equip their homes with alarm systems, it will help lessen the people who move here, who can’t afford to live here. The large majority of the new arrivals rent, and the landlords who install alarms will charge massively for that luxury.

    You are correct, Noris, as the population grows, so does the crime factor. Unfortunately, it is now horrible, violent crime.

  21. I’ve just made the move to Panama. Spent a lot of money to do so, and hope to be here another 30 years in retirement, or more.

    Okay, so let’s talk turkey. I think I am able to kill a home intruder. Maybe not, but I’d like to try if it happens and I have a chance. How much trouble will I be in?

    If I kill a couple of 15 year-olds; they are obviously in my house to steal my stuff and possibly injure or kill me, do I go to jail?

  22. I asked that specific question to the police person that was taking Deborah’s statement related to her mother being shot,stabbed and left for dead. The response I got was that you have a right to defend your property. Only after this has been tested will I completely believe the answer.

  23. Yes you go to jail and there will be long process. And youll be surprised of the outcome. Dont be fooled by you have the right to defend your property. I would say to defend you life. You dont have a license to kill just to defend property. Still there is a process etc. The person has to have a weapon call it gun knife bat hammer etc. You have to prove the person tried to kill ja. There are many ways of saving your life eutout pullig out a gun and it depends on the circumstances. Many times people get killed with their own guns.

  24. -I remember that Martinelli said that he wanted to make Panama a place like Singapore. I lived in Nigeria, Spain, Saint Lucia (Caribbean) and since January in Santa Lucia Volcancito.
    We have been robbed by two guys at gun point in our home 29th of July. Apply the criminal laws of Singapore. Drug trafficking death by hanging. The 2 guys who assaulted us would have been caned on their asses so that they cannot sit for 3 months. 20 years in jail including illegal possession of a fire arm. Singapore is a member of the UN as well as the British Commonwealth like Canada. So no excuse for Panama to change to laws.

  25. Noris, while I think that what you are saying has a high probably go being true, things have changed a lot in the last few months. As I said in my previous comment, I posed the exact question when Deborah was having her statement taken about her mother being robbed, shot, stabbed and left for dead. My exact question was what if Marion has shot and killed the 14 year old that had broken into her house and while the group of 3 or more were trying to kill her.

    The official said she had a right to defend herself and her property. As I also said, in my previous comment, that I would hate to be the one testing that official’s statement. However, I do believe that gangs are moving into Chiriquí and place little value on the life of victims. Gangs are moving from Panama City because there are more opportunities for bigger scores in the Boquete highlands. Something has to be done.

    Two years ago I would agree with you 100%. Now I am not so sure. I do think there is a good chance you could be arrested and placed in jail for a period of time and I have visited this jail and don’t recommend it as weekend outing. However, I also think the Panamanian people are getting fed up with the current lack of protection for the property owners and I believe that more support will flow out in case injustice is issued. Neighbor both Panamanians and foreigners will have major protests in front of government offices.

    This is why there needs to be more public outrage NOW and less tolerance for politic speak. Things had better change to everyone that has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars will see it disappear in a heartbeat (or a gun shot).

    Blogs telling how great it is here, need to provide some balance and let the world uno that all is not perfect.

  26. I realize the violence in Chiriqui has risen, but my Panamanian son-in-law, who is with the National Police says not so. It’s worst in Panama City East near the border.

  27. I, too, can’t believe that Chiriqui is the most violent province in Panama. Did the reporter cite any statistics and sources for this assertion?

  28. Joe, Don’t always believe what you here, from a “reliable source”. What is really disturbing is that many police here are a big part of the problem. Just a few days ago, two SENAFRONT officials were involved in an attempted armed robbery at Restaurante La Posada in Boquete.

    It may be worse in the capitol, per capita, but one must take into consideration the difference between the amount of police force, investigators, detaining facilities, etcetra, in Chiriqui, and Panama’ City. For this reason, the gangs are suddenly moving west…

  29. Chiriqui province is no stranger to police operations when needed. This article from 2010 shows they can perform if motivated.
    Newsroom Panama
    Saturday May 1st, 2010

    The largest ever seizure of weapons in Panama took place on Friday (April 30 ) in Boquete at the home of a university professor of sociology. A ton and a half of military weapons was confiscated in the El Francés sector of the district of Boquete, where police uncovered the weapons in a private residence, occupied by a sociology professor at the Universidad Autónoma de Chiriquí.
    Experts estimate that the arsenal, which may have originated from Central America, is valued at more than $1 million on the black market. Chiriquí police commissioner David Ramos, said the teacher was taken into custody and that further investigations will reveal if other individuals are involved.
    The seizure named Operation Compa, was made by a team composed of the National Police, the Narcotics Affairs Section, and the Judicial Investigation Department, with the support of the Public Prosecutions Office, following several months of research and surveillance. According to Ramos, the weapons had been in Chiriquí for some time, and were being stored in a specially built bunker.
    The items seized included: AK-47 ammunition, 250 Russian fragmentation grenades, 13 blocks of TNT, 60 packs of TNT, 186 60-caliber mortar rounds, 100 RPG grenades, 24 AK-47 sub-machine guns, and 47 AK-47 assault rifles.
    Getting law enforcement motivated is the problem. One additional factor in this is the practice of rotating the police to districts where they do not live. Most criminal investigation in Panama hinges on KNOWING the people who live there. Constantly moving officers does not allow them time to develop relationships with the locals.

  30. Don,

    I would like to think that you are right in your present convictions that things have changed enough where North Americans are not criminalized more than any victims that they may defend themselves against.

    My gut however, tells me that Noris, like you posed, could be right.

    The only precedent for this in recent memory that I am aware of, is the Ron McGrew case.

    Folks should look this up and study the details of the case.

    I don’t think anyone should end up as Mr. McGrew did.

  31. Joe S. Don’t misquote me. I didn’t say I had believed that things have changed. What I wrote was what the person taking Deborah’s statement said, “… that the person in the house had a right to defend themselves in their own home”.

    Also the Ron McGrew case is very different. If I remember right, Ron shot a person outside a neighbor’s house.

  32. Nena and her sister are positive that anyone who shoots an intruder will do jail time. Regardless of the circumstances, family of the intruder will demand “justice”. The Saban’s case demonstrates how justice works where expats are involved.

  33. I think the jury is still out on what would happen, if a person in Marion’s situation had shot and killed one of the intruders.

    The Saban case is a different case. It was a traffic accident. I am not defending the Panama judicial system, but the U.S. Embassy has been working with Panama to affect change in this area.

    Again, like I said, I would not want to be the foreigner testing the system. I can only tell you that I heard the police official say you have the right to protect yourself against an intruder in your own home.

    This seems like it would be worth creating a question for the U.S. Embassy to ask for interpretation from the Panamanian Government.

    I will send an email on that subject to the Embassy next week. Whether they can get a verified answer is not known. Whether the Embassy is willing to ask the question is unknown too.

  34. I apologize if I misunderstood you. This is a front-burner issue in which there is much concern. No one has come to Panama to be a crime victim, or to be maimed or killed.

    Yet sooner or later, someone will defend home, life, and property and shoot and kill one or more of these youthful miscreants, the way that things are going with the rhetoric ratching up.

    You are right.

    Mr. McGrew shot a middle-aged career criminal with a history of drug abuse trying to break into his neighbor’s house, which his neighbor had asked him to watch, as there had been break-ins in the area. His neighbor was going out of town for a couple of days.

    McGrew should not have gotten involved apparently. But he was a retired ex-policeman from Oregon, who naively and happily thought he could do this service, as he had been trained to do.

    Mr. McGrew heard some commotion during the night or early morning, went outside, armed with a weapon, and ordered the victim, who was breaking into the house, also if I remember right, to vacate the premises.

    Instead, the perpetrator started toward Mr. McGrew with a raised machete in his hand. McGrew was armed with a shotgun. McGrew thought to disable the threat, and despite his warnings, shot the perpetrator in his leg. The police were then called, and an ambulance was summoned.

    To my recollection, it took over two hours to get an ambulance to the scene which was in Puerto Armuelles. The perpetrator apparently was nicked by a pellet in or around his femoral artery, and by the time the ambulance had got there, he had bled out and died.

    McGrew was held for a few days, released, if again I recall correctly, and was charged later for murder. Mr. McGrew believed in what he did was in self-defense with a machete wielding attacker, and decided to take his chances with the Panamanian justice system.

    McGrew was tried for murder in a local setting without any petition for a change in venue and was represented by an inexperienced attorney who had never been involved with a criminal case.

    The prosecuting attorney, meanwhile, was very aggressive in his “pursuit” of justice. The judge presiding over the trial allowed the prosecuting attorney to make inflammatory, xenophobic, and racist remarks to anger the jury of seven people.

    It was a kangeroo court. It was a miscarriage of justice.

    McGrew’s attorney did nothing to counter the attacks, claims, and smears. It was an one-sided affair.

    Finally, in his closing remarks, the prosecuting attorney called upon the jury to administer justice to “these Gringos who buy up all of our land, bother our women, and now, kill our children…” if I remember this discourse aptly. Of course, the perpetrator was no child.

    The jury deliberated for a short time, and came back with a verdict.

    Mr. McGrew was found guilty… of first degree murder… and was sentenced to life in prison.

    Everyone associated on the side of Mr. McGrew, both North Americans or expats, and Panamanians, were shocked and angry.

    The United States Government asked the Martinelli Administration to intervene and set aside the verdict citing irregularities.

    After about a year in prison, all charges against McGrew were dropped, and Mr. McGrew was ordered to be freed. There was no new trial to be scheduled.

    McGrew and his wife put their house up for sale, and left Panama. A Google search will find no one by his name in the United States. Perhaps, Mr, McGrew has changed his name to avoid any possibility of retaliation or further notoriety. To be sure, his life was nearly totally ruined, and certainly his life here in Panama ended.

    This record of events is from my best recall of the case, and probably can be corrected or corroborated by media accounts. I know nothing of the Saban case that Jim has mentioned but believe that Nena is quite correct about any family of any intruder, will seek “justice,” particularly… if a minor is involved…

  35. A search of boquete.Ning for McGrew or Saban will provide most of the details on the history. Both are very different from the attacks happening now. The result of killing a robber could still turn out the same. In the Saban’s case, they had to exit Panama to avoid probable jail time.

  36. No arguments with what you said Joe. In a U.S. court McGrew might have been taken to jail, but released quickly and the trial would have been short. You accurately described what I remember also in the McGrew case.

    The family asked me to attend the hearing, but I said it would be better for an Embassy employee to go and not a volunteer.

    I don’t disagree with Jim and Nena. In fact, I totally agree. Lilliam went to the court hearing for with the family of the father and son who had been shot on a boat moored off an island in Pedregal. The family’s lawyers tried everything to get the five young men off. Luckily the police had enough proof to send each of them to jail for 25 years.

    The father died and I have remained friends with the son since that case. He still has a bullet 1/4 inch for his spinal cord. He is in the process of moving his family to the U.S.

    Lets face it. If you are a foreigner and find yourself in in any court case (Civil or Criminal) in Panama, your chances of winning are less than 50%. If you have an option to stay out of court, you will save money.

    I have spent a lot of money securing my house so that it doesn’t look like a worthy target. I also live in a area where all of the neighbors look after each other and we have an outstanding neighborhood watch.

    These are serious times and those that portray Panama incorrectly, in their writing and tour presentations, will have to share some of the blame, when people move and learn the truth. People who come prepared and with the right expectations will do fine.

  37. As they say in Evangelical churches, Don…. Amen!… to your comments…particularly those who paint best-case scenarios to profit from. It is pathologically selfish.

    The rule of thumb in home security here in Panama, what I have heard, is that you don’t need to have the best home security..

    …just better than your neighbors…

  38. One item to include in security planning, if you harden your home to the point it is too much trouble for the thugs to crack, they may simply wait for you to arrive home and attack when you exit the car. This has happened a couple of times already in Boquete. The thugs were watching the target and knew when to expect them.

  39. One more thing (channeling Steve Jobs), ANYTIME you have the car remote in your hand, almost all of them have a PANIC button that sets the horn honking. Regardless of where you are, you can press that button and get someone’s attention, perhaps enough to upset the thugs’ plans for you.

    No one pays attention to car alarms anymore, but start honking the horn and everybody gets pissed and takes a look. Use that quirk of human nature to save yourself.

  40. I must say, .. the tourism industry is already hurting !!
    My wife and I (ya I know, we are only two and won’t make any difference !) have been lurking on this and many other blogs and sites.. part of what we feel to be due diligence before coming to Shangri-law (sic) .. we were planning to be in Panama this winter and researched the requirement to have suitable, efficient, worthwhile security. A result of Marions tragic incident (best wishes for her complete recovery!) and the overall increase in crime. My findings indicate that we would have to spend from $700 to $1000 for a half decent system that would provide clear videos and images to identify any SOB who wanted our “stuff”!! Something substantially better than those images above!
    As a result that we don’t wish to become another study case in “delinquent policy” we’ve decided to travel a little less South. Still escaping the snow but hopefully in a presently safer environment! We will continue reading and doing our due diligence and some day we may travel closer to the equator.. but not right now!
    Glenn and Lesley Sibbitt .. real names! 🙂

  41. I found a bit of news that may have a bearing on Chiriqui taking the lead in violent crime. For decades, Colon was always “the most dangerous” place but a recent gang member rehabilitation program has contributed to a drop in statistics there.

    Whatever they are doing in Colon is long overdo in Chiriqui (assuming that the gangs have not simply moved their operations).

  42. And that is pretty much the minister’s position, that Colón is improving while Chiriquí is losing ground.

    See 2:00 through 5:00 of “Ministro Aguilera busca reducir la violencia en Chiriquí”

    where he states that homicides in Chiriquí were running at around 6.5 homicides per 100,000 residents but there has been an increase to 7.5 while Colón was coming in at 34 homicides per 100,000 and he hopes to cut that in half by the end of the year.

  43. So perhaps and with reserved and all due respect; A response reflecting the antipathy that was evidenced in the neighbor shooting the perp in the leg case to me seems prudent.
    This would be a consortium of spanish speaking gringos; gathered to sit within a community of citizens who are not removed from local culture by english language, american or european life style and values. Listening to what bothers and is at the heart of the bias we saw by that court case. It in fact reflects at least to this gringo a deep local wound somewhere that ought to be dissociated with the actual intentions expats have toward the actual local population.

  44. From my experience of several years living here, I believe you need layers of security to minimize risk. Cameras are great but there is no silver bullet. First, you need fenced area around property with good gate and nice fat lock on it (perception is important). Next, you should put a lock box on your main breaker at the tablero so it isn’t possible to walk by and cut power. There is no substitute for a couple of large dogs. They don’t have to be attack dogs, better are guard/watch dogs that alert and are protective. Bars over windows and steel doors are a must. Your doors should have keyed dead bolts and at least one extra lock. Cameras, motion lights, etc also help. I never go outside at night without tactical flashlight with defensive strobe (Fenix makes some good ones you can order on Amazon for $60-$80) there are incredibly powerful LED small flashlights now up to 1000 lumins but you have to order they aren’t available in Panama. You have to make up your own mind about firearms and whether the risks are worth it. If not have a plan how or if it is appropriate to fight back. Almost forgot, tinted windows on your cars are a must so it isn’t easy to tell exactly who is coming and going from your property.

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