Sunday, May 29, 2011

Is Panama safe?











(This is the first blog of a series written since related to "Living in Panama". Please refer also to  "Pros and Cons of Living in Panama",  "Is Panama an Illusion?"  and "Further Notes on Panama Living")

I often field the question from foreigners to Panama along with friends and family...is Panama a safe place to live? From my 6+ years living here I usually answer that I feel as safe here as most any major USA city. Sure, the culture is different, there are MORE poor people per capita, and "stuff" happens anywhere as well as the USA.

I have not taken the time to pursue crime statistics lately between the USA and Panama so most of my views are based on perception and first hand experience which admittedly can be relative. Part of that perception is simply gleaned from news coverages. I subscribe to Google news services that feed me daily news on certain topics I like to follow. One of those topics is obviously Panama, yet I have not filtered that news heavily enough to leave out news from Panama City, FLORIDA...so I actually get daily news from both Panama City s.

As I browse recent weeks of these headlines, it strikes me that the news is much more violent on the average from Panama City, Florida than from the Republic of Panama. This actually doesn't surprise me since there are many more guns per capita in the USA and probably (again...perception) more drug users and gang bangers than in my adopted resident country.

Here are a number of recent Panama City, Florida headlines that backup my perception:

(First two are just in today)
Man dies in Panama City Beach shooting...
Shooting suspect denies being gang member...
Women charged in check fraud...
Three arrested, one sought in pill / hostage case...
Severely burned man arrives at hospital wearing only his underwear; he's arrested on meth charges...
Man charged with attempted bank robbery after bomb scare...
15 charged in meth ring...
Boil water notices issued...(I thought this only happened in the Republic of Panama)
Man charged with aggravated battery...

The bottom line of this illustration is that crime and violence happens in both Panama City s. We all have a choice of believing or not the media slants towards the news. Sure, many media love to sensationalize the crimes, blood and guts in the streets throughout the world. And sure, we all want to be made aware of the dangers around us...and probably which neighborhoods to avoid from a probability basis of bad things happening to YOU.

My summary view on personal safety in both Panama City s,... and probably many other reportedly dangerous places like Colombia and Mexico...is that your personal safety depends on where you go and who you associate with. I would suggest that violent crimes apart from petty theft rarely occur against the average good citizen. Much of the violence in Panama, Colombia, Mexico AND the USA is based on drug deals gone bad, either between the suppliers or the users. Most of the cause and effect of that is because when someone in that world steals or cheats you, you can`t call the police or consult your lawyer. That whole world (the drug one) is based on the most banal, animalistic aspects of what it means to be human and survive.

I don´t think crime and violence should be a deterrent for people wanting to work or retire in Panama or most other Latin countries. The biggest issue for most "Northerners" or Anglo s will be if they can adjust to the different culture, language and service levels these cultures feature. For some Panama, Colombia, Mexico and other Latin destinations are "paradise". For others it is "hell on earth". I think it just depends who you are and where you go. Same goes for Panama City, Florida...

10 comments:

KUMONTOTH said...

Excellent insights on the comparative safety of the countries. I must admit that the drug wars particularly in Mexico have prejudiced my motivation the travel there with my wife and daughter. I'd go there in a moment on my own but feel protective of them....I'm think about traveling by motor vehicle not by air in this case.

Stephen said...

I travel all over Latin America on business. People ask me the same question all the time: "Is it safe" Yes! I feel safe in Panama as well as other Latin American countries. I avoid certain neighborhoods just as I do in any US city. I don't go out at night, alone, in dark alleys, in the USA or in Latin America. Go out where the folks are moving around and you will be safe!

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