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Crime And Police In Panama

As a modern business and financial centre, Panama does not experience excessive street crime when compared with any other worldwide destinations; but, as everywhere in the world, the level of crime is growing.

In the large cities, such as Panama City and Colon, visitors are advised to be cautious with their money and passports, particularly at night. High-crime areas around Panama City are Chorillo, Ancon, Curundu, Vera Cruz Beach, Panama Viejo, and the Madden Dam

Despite harsh penalties for crime in Panama, incidents do happen: airport theft is common so be sure you take an authorized taxi and don’t share with strangers. Anti-US demonstrations occasionally occur but they are normally non-violent affairs where foreigners do not get involved.

Safety Tips:

  • Be extra careful at night, especially if you are a woman
  • Ask your taxi driver to wait if you are being dropped off in an unlit area at night
  • Find out from hotel staff which areas around the hotel are best to avoid
  • Meet strangers in busy places
  • Don't leave valuables in your car or on tables in cafes or restaurants
  • Non-essential valuables should be locked up in hotel safes
  • Avoid holding large sums of cash. Use credit cards and travelers cheques instead
  • Carry a photocopy of your passport instead of the original
  • Walk with your bag facing away from the street to avoid snatching by thieves on motorcycles
  • If another driver or person gestures for you to stop your car, don’t stop until you find a busy, well-lit public place to do so

The Tourist Police

Founded in 1992, the Tourist Police Force is on hand on the rare occasion that you might require assistance. They can be identified by khaki uniforms, prominent armbands and shirts with ‘Policia’ in bold letters on the back. Most are trained to speak various foreign languages.

They Tourist Police will rescue you if you get lost in the rainforest, or even the concrete jungle of the city. If you lose your, the police will help by contacting families, friends or consulates. In the case of sickness, they will ensure immediate medical help. They will also guide you to the nearest bus stop, bank or anywhere else you wish to go.

In central locations, officers go on foot or on bicycles. Motorized units are to be seen on the roads, particularly the Panama-Colon highways along which visitors travel to the Colon Free Zone.

The Tourist Police work closely with IPAT (Instituto Panameño de Turismo or Tourism Bureau) and the Ministry of Government & Justice, which control the regular police force, and the immigration service.

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