Crime in Panama

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Crime in Panama is moderate but becoming less frequent.[1] Police checkpoints have become common place on weekends on roads in between cities. Based upon reported incidents by local police, the high-crime areas around Panama City are San Miguelito, Rio Abajo, El Chorrillo, Ancón, Tocumen, Pedregal, Curundu, Veracruz Beach, Panama Viejo, and the Madden Dam overlook.

The crimes plague metropolitan areas and include rapes, armed robberies, muggings, purse-snatchings, "express kidnappings" from ATM banking facilities, in which the victim is briefly kidnapped and robbed after withdrawing cash from an ATM, and petty theft. There have been several targeted kidnappings in Panama with the complicity of corrupt law enforcement.

Government Action[edit]


Panamanian authorities have adopted a curfew policy for youths under age 18. Students who are attending night classes must carry a permit or identification card, provided by the school or an official certified person. Youths under 18 who are caught without them are subject to detention at a police station until they are released to their legal guardians. A fine around $50.00 is issued to the legal guardians if the youth is apprehended for the first time.

Curfews consist of special strategic checkpoints around the main streets in Panama. Each person inside a vehicle must carry their identification cards or be accompanied by their legal guardians. Authorities have helped slowly decrease the amount of unattended youths loitering around the streets. Most thefts and kidnappings are carried out by minors.

Type of Crimes[edit]

Express Kidnappings[edit]

Panamanian authorities conducted a study which indicates that almost 90 percent of express kidnappings are unreported due to the threat that thieves impose on the victim and relatives of the victim. The procedure of express kidnapping consist of abducting the victim and taking possession of valuables such as cellphones, watches, credit cards, cash and jewelry. Besides taking all of the victim's valuables, the kidnappers make the victim withdraw money from different ATM locations.

Once the kidnapper is satisfied the abducted person is usually released. In other cases, the kidnappers may ask for ransom money for the release of the victim. This long process of kidnapping is slowly decreasing, since most kidnappers want a quick payoff without complicated negotiations with relatives.

Drug Trafficking[edit]

Further information: Illegal drug trade in Panama

In recent decades Panama has become an important connection for shipping narcotics to the US and other countries. The International Narcotics Control Strategy has reported that traffickers have smuggled narcotics through the country's uncontrolled transportation system, such as airfields, coastlines, containerized seaports and highways. The FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) has also contributed to the increase.

Many of the RAFC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) soldiers who seek shelter and refugee from Colombian Armed Forces cross the border between Darien and Colombia. Since the FARC arrived in Panama, drug trafficking has significantly increased. Waterways are being watched carefully by the Panamanian Naval Forces, but the FARC has adapted ways of smuggling narcotics across Panama by land.

Street Gangs[edit]

The first Panamanian Gangs appeared during the late 1980s and increased in numbers when the Panamanian Army was disbanded in 1990 due to the United States invasion of Panama. A 2009 census reported that there are about 108 street gangs. Some of them are:

  • Calor calor
  • Los Evolution
  • Vietnam 23
  • Patrulla del Terror
  • Blue Demond, Kilimanjaros, Rugrats
  • Chicanos
  • Toca y Muere
  • Cofos
  • Sicilianos
  • Hijos del Banano
  • Los Perros
  • Sopranos
  • Los Ninos Capos
  • Nueva Ola
  • Chacales
  • Los Wereber

More than 1,600 youths between the ages of 13 and 15 are affiliated with youth gangs. Most of the youth gangs are fueled by drugs.

See also[edit]