The crime rate in Boquete is pretty low at this point. There was a time when one guy was responsible for a very high percentage of break-ins when I first came here. He is now in jail and will be in jail for some time. He was very effective after committing around 50 to 100 break-ins, but they later trapped and caught him.
Otherwise, the crimes here are episodic and tend to be non-violent crimes. Having an alarm system really makes a lot of sense because someone can jimmy a window if you don’t have bars on it and thieves tend to be very resourceful. What thieves usually look for are highly portable items such as cell phones, iPads, laptops and jewelry, so that they can fence their stolen items quickly.
I had a situation when I first moved here, which was scary in a way. It happened before we had our dogs Molly and George. I woke up one morning, went in the office, and I went back in to see my wife Alicia, to ask her where she put her computer. She didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. So I started checking things out and found that her laptop and my laptop were gone. Our cell phones were gone, too. I went inside the guestroom and saw my briefcase turned upside down by these thieves. They took all the cash, but being gentlemen, they left me my passport, cedula and all of my credit cards! They jimmied the window, got in and out and we didn’t know it at all. Those guys were good.
That will not happen where we live now because we now have perimeter alarms just like most people. If something trips over the perimeter, there are 24 spotlights that will go on and 12 cameras with recording that will tell me exactly which section of the perimeter was violated. Then I will go to the monitors and check and probably say, “Oh! It is that big white dog again! Thank goodness.” Having cameras and alarms visible to would be burglars makes a lot difference because they will go elsewhere, if you have cameras and alarms. I am willing to pay US $40 per month because we have four partitions in our perimeter. If the alarm goes off, I get a phone call within 10 to 15 seconds, and if I do not give the secret password, the cops will be on their way right away.
I don’t think the crime rate here in Panama is that much different in the US. I have been mugged a couple of times in New York City. The first time was when there were a couple of guys who pulled a knife on me, I smashed the guy in the face, and he and his buddy took off, but not before his buddy got a good whack at me. That was relatively uneventful, but it shows you that Irish courage really does work. The second time I got mugged in New York City, I would have given the guy whatever he wanted because he had a butcher knife at my throat. I lived in a really neat townhouse just off of Fifth Avenue and there was a teacher living there from one of the local colleges. There was a young man waiting at the door who looked to me like he was a student – a big student, but a student nevertheless. I made the mistake of letting him come in with me. He let me into the elevator first and when I turned around, he had a butcher knife at my throat.
The point of telling these stories is to illustrate that crimes happen here from time to time just as crimes happen in New York from time to time, but one crime is not representative of what happens on a regular basis. No matter where you are, you should always conduct yourself appropriately. It does not matter if you are in New York just off Fifth Avenue or in Boquete; you should not leave your front door open.
There are two fundamental ways of dealing with break-ins here in Boquete. Many folks like me do not have bars on the doors and windows and that is one of the reasons why you would want to have a perimeter system. The house we used to live in, which we recently sold, had bars on all the doors and windows. After they jimmied the window and stole our computers, we put bars on all the doors and windows. We didn’t need a perimeter system because no one is getting through those bars since those were put in with big bolts. You will see that most houses, if people can afford them, they have bars on the doors and windows.
If you cannot afford to have bars on the doors and windows, it may well be that you are in a community with reasonably small lots and you have nearby neighbors, which is your other protection. If it is apparent to the community in general that you have something worth stealing because you are in a very big house or some other reasons, then it is a good idea to have an alarm system and barking dogs, in which case, you do not need to put bars on the windows because you have your security system. If you do not have your security system and it is apparent to the community that you have stuff worth stealing, then it is a good idea to have bars on the windows and doors. If you can afford to have that to the extent that you have two nice big dogs that are what we call “inside dogs” – they may be outside in your yard during the day but at night, they are in the house so they cannot be dealt with-- then you will be in very good shape. If you take these precautions, you would be safe in Boquete. I feel just as safe as in Boquete as when I am walking down a street in Providence, Rhode Island.