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Why is there so much razor wire everywhere? It seems there are security issues in Costa Rica, or not? Many clients ask if Costa Rica has security issues when they start their due diligence. Usually, that is because they see so much razor wire and bars everywhere.
Most cities and towns now have municipal police, who have installed cameras everywhere. I know it’s kind of 1984 Big Brother, but I must say that security is much better now.
The other day, I received this email from Paul, a future ex-pat :
“My name is Paul, and I just returned from a 4-day trip to San Jose and participated in an Expat seminar by the ARCR. I walked to 7:00 mass one morning through a neighborhood where EVERY HOUSE had heavy iron gates across the driveway, razor wire, and an electric security fence, and some even had uniformed guards.
What on earth are the Ticos afraid of? I live in the Detroit area, sometimes called the MURDER City instead of the Motor City and I assure you the only razor wire you see is at the county jail. What gives? “
Robbery Prevention Tips
Before you buy a house here, you must understand why there is so much razor wire in some parts of the country. I have lived in this incredible country since 1980 and have seen my share of insecurity here. Nonetheless, the issue seems much bigger than it is. That’s because you have control over 95% of it. Often, those who are robbed could have prevented the robbery by
- Do not carry large amounts of money
- Protect your home when you’re away
- Trust your instincts. If you sense trouble, prepare.
- Don’t look like an easy target.
- Remain alert and observe the people around you.
- Walk in well-lit areas.
- Be aware of your surroundings..
My answer to Paul
This is my answer to Paul and to all of the future expats and retirees who have the same doubts when they move here:
Hi Paul, I am glad you enjoyed your 4-day trip and the ARCR seminar! Let me first explain the razor wire and other security measurements Ticos take. It is a very simple explanation, though a long one.
A first-degree home invasion is a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 20 years or a fine of a maximum of $5,000.00, or both.
Home invasions are very unusual in Costa Rica, though. The most common robberies are the ones that happen when there is nobody at home. Most of the time, those are the ones that are not punished. The government offers a website where you can look for this kind of crime in many locations around the country.
The judicial system
The people who are robbed are usually unwilling to report a crime, so why waste more time and effort. Costa Rica has a terrible judicial system like most Latin America. It takes forever to judge a case, and there is no money to build jails. There is also never money to build good infrastructure, maintain roads, build bridges, and more. The reason is that many people in Costa Rica don’t pay their taxes. There is a huge tax evasion among the rich. Each government promised to be better than the one before; I’m sure you’ve heard that story.
About 20% of the population is poor. This started during the Carazo administration, from 1978 – 1982. Since then, every presidential candidate has promised to reduce this percentage. Costa Rica does not have a welfare system like many 1st world countries. So, we have a lot of poor people here who don’t have a job, single mothers with a lot of children, lazy people that think stealing is easier than work, and drug addicts. This last group is growing. That’s why we have security issues in Costa Rica.
Most robberies are petty thieves; they’ll steal your flat-screen TV and any cash money they can find. Even if the police catch them, they must let them go in a few hours. That’s because the judicial system sees stealing as a minor crime. Also, there are not enough jails to put them in.
So why is there so much razor wire everywhere?
We build walls around the property to stop thieves from entering our Costa Rica home. Then we put razor wire on top. If our neighbor has more razorwire and a higher wall, we add more blocks and razor wire on our property. It’s like a competition. Before starting construction of the house, we start by installing bars in the windows and doors and razor wire on our perimeter wall. It’s a cultural thing without logic.
I used to have a chainlink fence, and one night, someone broke into my office and took all my cameras and computers. They probably sold it all for a few bucks. I now have an electric security fence, too, though I don’t have any bars on my windows. I think it’s important to mention that I have had only two burglaries in my 42 years of living in this beautiful country.
Installing a security system is easy, or you can go for fog protection or hire a live-in housekeeper so someone is always at home. No place on earth is perfect. Living in Latin America has a negative side, and you just found it.
I have lived in a condo for a few years. We had security fences all over and security guards everywhere. My wife and I hated it because we lacked the privacy we wanted. Living in a condo is not our lifestyle, even though it offers many amenities, we now don’t have. We now live in a single-family home, and we’ve taken the necessary security measures to feel perfectly safe.
But I live in Escazu, which is very urban. There are fewer security issues in more rural areas like Atenas, Puriscal, Grecia, and San Ramon.
The best security is ensuring someone takes care of your home while you are away. That can be a maid, a gardener, or a friend, or at least have a neighbor keep an eye out.
Not feeling unsafe
I have lived in Costa Rica for over 30 years and have NEVER felt unsafe. Like everybody else, I just like to ensure nobody takes my belongings when I’m not looking.
If you plan to move to Costa Rica, you need to keep an open mind about some of these security issues as they are a fact. If you move here, you must know the advantages and disadvantages of living there. That’s why I’m telling you about it.
Looking to buy or rent and feel safe and secure? Then contact us now.