Reading responses to this important question, I notice that most are from realtors and tourist-related businesses, both of which have a vested interest in people coming to Panama and therefore play down the issue of crime against expats. Many of the responses, too, are old.
I have lived in Boquete, Panama for nine years and regret to report that in the past year this community has experienced a dramatic increase in violent crime, most related to home invasions. A Canadian expat was murdered in one invasion; an American expat was injured so critically in another as to require weeks in the hospital and at least one return to the hospital after her release. There have been several home invasions with less serious but significant physical injuries. All of those surviving were severely traumatized, and many if not most have left the country. As a result of these crimes, a police checkpoint has been set up on the outskirts of the road between Boquete and David as it is believed these crimes to be the work of gangs in David.
This is not to say that the town (Boquete) is in a panic or that folks are walking around in fear of their lives. These crimes were a wake-up call, though, particularly for those who live remotely and those who do not have adequate home security such as fences, burglar bars, cameras, and alarms. Those considering relocation to Panama cannot underestimate the need for adequate security wherever they choose to live. More and more people are renting, and most rentals have negligible security. And, while property outside of town or a established community may have a more attractive price tag for those putting down roots, they also are more vulnerable to crime--particularly those south of town toward David where the new four-lane highway affords criminals and quick exit.
It is disingenuous to say that expats are not targeted to some degree. They generally have more money and material goods than Panamanians, which make them more attractive to the criminal element.