Crime in Panama

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A street scene in Panama City

Crime in Panama is investigated by the Panamanian police.

Crime by type[edit]


In 2012, Panama had a murder rate of 17.2 per 100,000 population.[1] There were a total of 654 murders in Panama in 2012.[1]


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.

Illegal drug trade[edit]

Further information: Illegal drug trade in Panama

In recent decades,[when?] 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 FARC 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.[citation needed]


Robberies prevalent in Panama include armed robberies and muggings.[2]

Domestic violence[edit]

Further information: Domestic violence in Panama

Domestic violence in Panama is a serious problem and remains underreported.[3] Domestic violence, including spousal rape, psychological, physical, and economic abuse, are criminalized.[3][4] Panama enacted Ley No.38 del 2001 against domestic violence.[5] In 2013, the country enacted Law 82 - Typifying Femicide and Violence Against Women (Ley 82 - Tipifica el Femicidio y la Violencia contra las Mujeres) a comprehensive law against violence against women.[4]

By location[edit]

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.[citation needed]

The US State Department cites more dangerous areas of Panama City in its 2015 report as being Panama Viejo (the neighborhood, not the park itself), Cabo Verde, Curundu, San Miguel, Marañon, Chorillo, Barraza, Santana, Monte Oscuro, San Miguelito, Ciudad Radial, San Cristobal, San Pedro, Pedregal, San Juaquin, Mañanitas, Nuevo Tocumen, 24 de Diciembre, Sector Sur Tocumen, Felipillo, Chilibre, Caimitillo, Alcalde Diaz, and Pacora.[6]

Crime dynamics[edit]

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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

Government action[edit]

Police checkpoints have become commonplace on weekends on roads in between cities.


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.[citation needed]

Curfews consist of special strategic checkpoints around the main streets in Panama. Each person inside a vehicle must carry an identification card 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.

See also[edit]


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