My morning routine of skimming the papers and online pages for Panama News I came across this interesting report by the OSAC (The Overseas Security Advisory Council) – The OSAC was created in 1985 under the Federal Advisory Committee Act to promote security cooperation between American private sector interests worldwide and the U.S. Department of State. I’d never heard of this organization before so I was quite excited to discover some of the great information they provide and work they are doing. One area they look at is Crime and Safety in various countries including Panama. It’s a question I get all the time, Is Panama Safe? So, I’m always on the look out for resources like this to put peoples minds at ease with relavent and current facts. Here are some highlights from their report titled –
Overall Crime and Safety in Panama
Panama 2011 Crime and Safety Report
- Panama remains relatively safe when compared to other Central American countries.
- Violent crime in Panama started to rise in 2007 but new efforts by the Panamanian National Police (PNP) to combat this trend appear to have made an impact.
- Starting in June 2010, the number of homicides in the country dropped and continued to decline.
- Panama has a total population of 3.4 million people, and despite the 737 murders, neighboring countries are faring much worse.
- Side notes – by the end of 2010, the most recent reporting year, there were 737 murders in Panama. That’s ahead of Canada at 610 but well below the US at 15,241 – that’s not a typo! And while we’re comparing numbers here I did a bit more digging and found these interesting stats:
- Of the eight Central American Countries Panama came in sixth for total homicides while Mexico came in first with 20,585.
- Another interesting crime stat is the ‘Homicide Rate’ that is murders per 100,000 people. Panama had 21.6 vs Belize at 41.7 and Honduras at 82.1
- The source of those stats was the UNODC – The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
- The overall decline of homicides in Panama can be seen as a positive sign. This downward trend was also reflected in crimes involving gun violence and armed robbery rates.
- For non-drug related crime, the use of weapons (handguns and knives) in the commission of street robberies is common; however, gratuitous violence is uncommon as long as the victim complies and hands over their property.
- Police continue to conduct vehicle check points at key intersections in the city in an effort to raise their visibility and hamper criminal movements.
- The high crime areas in and around Panama City continue to be El Chorrillos, San Miguel, Santa Ana, Cabo Verde, Curundu, Veracruz Beach, Santa Librada, Rio Abajo, San Miguelito, Panama Viejo, and the Madden Dam Overlook.
- Panama is a rising country with a strong economy and a stable government. Panama’s economy is powered by revenues from the Canal and from the Colon Free Trade Zone.
- The Panamanian National Police (PNP) created a special unit (Tourism Police) to deal with crimes against tourists and foreigners.
- The PNP have substations located in all the major regions in Panama and numerous offices located in Panama City. Their performance and responsiveness to incidents involving Americans has been good.
- The main Police number is 104; however, the telephone operators may or may not speak English, and most police officers speak very little English. Incidents of police harassing foreigners for bribes is uncommon.
- Panama City has excellent trauma hospitals; however, most other communities have lesser services, facilities and/or clinics. You are expected to pay for medical services with cash at the time of the service; however, some hospitals accept U.S. insurance cards with a deposit payment. Hospitals will accept international credit cards.
To read the complete report visit – OSAC – The Overseas Security Advisory Council