The Isla Colon police sub-station would like to welcome everyone to the island and hopes that you have an enjoyable stay in our country. To make sure you have a nice stay we would like to make sure you know how to make a report in the unfortunate event that you become a victim of burglary (hurto) or theft (robo). We are also offering the following preventative measures and suggestions to minimize your risk.
- As an opening point, we want to make sure everyone understands that “hurtos” or burglaries are those acts committed without violence and “robos” or thefts are those acts that use violence to force entry or gain access to valuables.
To report a burglary or theft:
- Go to the closest police station. You can go in person or someone else with knowledge of the act can go on your behalf to make the report. You should make sure to carry your passport or identification card and some proof that the stolen article did in fact exist (receipt or 3 witnesses that you did own the article), as a police report cannot be made without such proof.
- If you are a foreign national visiting our country and do not speak or read and write in Spanish, you should bring someone who can speak and read and write in Spanish with you when you visit the police station with your passport or ID.
- At the police station you should describe in detail what happened, and make sure to describe anyone or anything suspicious your observed.
- The regular uniformed police will only take a report of what happened and radio in to other police officers patrolling the streets to make sure they are alert and informed. The regular police will most likely not give you any kind of document. After visiting the police station, you will be directed to one of two places to make a formal report and trigger an investigation:
- The Judicial Investigations Bureau or Dirrección de Investigación Judicial (DIJ) handles cases when the value of the stolen articles is more than $250; they are located across from the airport.
- The local magistrate or la Corregiduría handles cases when the stolen articles were less than $250 in value. They are located in an office within the municipal building by the park
- There are two kinds of reports:
- The first kind is just a report of what happened resulting in a document recording the incident and is not necessarily a formal complaint against anyone.
- The second kind of formal report is one in which the victim requests an investigation. This takes more time and the office will intervene on behalf of the victim from who they receive the complaint. Later investigators from the DIJ will begin investigations and the collection of evidence, as Panamanian laws prohibit the detainment of suspects without evidence except in cases where the suspects are caught in the act.
- Before leaving the DIJ or magistrate’s office you will be given a copy of the report or complaint as well as phone numbers for the DIJ and the National Police so you can stay in contact with them.
- At the end of this process there will be a formal complaint, the DIJ or the prosecutor’s office will take the case, call in whoever needs to be involved, for example staff from criminology who will collect evidence, and do whatever is necessary to locate the stolen items. After this they will serve justice whether they recover missing property or capture involved parties.
IT IS IMPORTANT THAT VICTIMS OF BURGLERIES AND THEFT STEP FORWARD IMMEDIATELY TO MAKE REPORTS BECAUSE THIEVES WILL IMMEDIATELY LOOK FOR A WAY TO TAKE STOLEN GOODS OFF THE ISLAND TO ALMIRANTE WHERE THEY WILL THEN BE SENT EITHER TO DAVID OR TO THE COSTA RICAN BORDER. Once more than 48 hours have passed without a report, it is very difficult to locate stolen items.
Telephone numbers for the authorities:
- Isla Colon Police Station: 757-9217 and 171 9485
- Judicial Investigation Bureau: 757-9777
- Bastimentos Police Sub-Station: 757-9757
- Email for Corporal Martin Sanchez: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hopefully you will never have to report a crime, you can take some measures to minimize your risk of becoming a victim of theft. So that you have a more enjoyable stay in our corner of the world, we offer you the following recommendations:
- Ask the receptionist at your hotel or hostel to hold your valuables and only carry what you need.
- It is also important that you know that there are infractions that are sanctionable whether they are committed by locals or foreign nationals. As such, please get to know local and national laws to avoid any inconveniences while visiting our country: it is prohibited to smoke in public places, walk without a shirt or improperly covered on main roads, and to consume alcoholic beverages while in public areas.
- Before you trust tourist guides try to evaluate them as people and do not make deals in the streets for supposed deals or better packages. Instead, go to the owners of tourism taxis or to the tourism businesses.
- Try not to look like an easy target.
- Do not flash large amounts of money in public (and remember that what seems like a small out to you, may not be small to someone else) as this can make you a target for theft.
- Do not allow strangers into your rooms, and do not go to unknown places with people you don’t know or just met.
- It is also important to note that if you go out to the beaches, to bars or to other places where you might be distracted, do not take valuables with you and do not leave them out of sight.
If you would like more information, consult the Judicial Code of the Republic of Panama, Article 269 Number 08, which addresses how to make police reports, as well as Article 951 Number 1 and the Penal Procedural Code Article 126, which addresses the use of interpreters in the event that you do not speak Spanish. These laws can be found in Spanish in any bookstore. We will also try to publish them in an upcoming issue of the Bocas Breeze in Spanish and English.