Panama Home Security Tips - from a thief

Many of the Security Tips presented here are from The Discovery Channel’s TV show, “It Takes A Thief” -  a show on home security put on by former thieves;  the experts on home robberies.  While some of the information here has been adapted to suit our security needs here in Panama, and it has been noted as such, it is interesting to note that many common sense measures apply globally. However, this is Panama; the climate is great and we often “live” outdoors even when we are at home. We are, therefore, faced with the challenge to be diligent about our security while still enjoying the freedom of movement that Panama has to offer.  When reading these tips you may think that some do not apply but even those may help you in determining the system or method that works for you.


Alarm Systems

·         Invest in an alarm system to protect your home ... and use it. Make sure your house alarm is connected to the police or a central station to ensure someone will respond. (PANAMA NOTE: In Panama, the alarm company that installs your system will want to sign you up to their monitoring system. These monitoring locations are generally in Panama or Chorrera. They will contact whoever you designate when the alarm goes off; it could be you or the local police or Coronado security or all of them in sequence.  There is a cost and, at the moment, most people this writer has talked to think there is limited value due to the contact response time. The monitoring is by phone line, so if the phone line is cut, there is no transmission but the alarm monitor should know the line is cut and notify the contact(s).   As more people get alarm systems, possibly a good, reliable and fast monitoring company will start up locally (if one exists now please notify Jamuna).  See a list the end of this article that includes three alarm companies that have been used in Coronado or close by for alarm installations.)

·         Make sure the system's central panel is in a secure spot to prevent thieves from trying to dismantle your system.

·         Have your system tested annually, as construction or nature can disrupt outside wiring (PANAMA NOTE: If it is a good system, it should alarm that there is a fault with wiring or if a thief cut a wire to any device.  Finding a technician to “check the wiring” could be quite difficult.  They will check the system operation and do a complete “walk through” and that is probably worthwhile, if you don’t feel comfortable doing your own).

·         A barking dog, even a small one will deter most burglars. The noise draws attention, which is the last thing burglars want. Do remember, however that dogs are not a proper deterrent. They can become scared like humans if strangers become threatening. It's not fair to your pup to rely on its canine bravado.

Doors and Windows

·         All exterior doors should be solid-core doors with heavy-duty dead bolts installed in a sturdy frame with long screws so they can't be kicked open.

·         Keeping your door open during the day may let in the sunlight ... and thieves! So install a storm door with a lock to keep sunlight in — and burglars out.

·         {mosimage}Place security bars over your windows and around your home's removable AC units to prevent intruders from crawling inside.

·         Apply window film to make your glass shatterproof; tinted film can further prevent thieves from window-shopping and even block out UV rays so furniture won't be damaged by the sun. Frosting over windows is also a good option. Also, assess your glass doors. Ideally, any glass doors in your home should be double-paned, heavy-duty laminated glass; if not, consider replacing them, or install window film and metal security grills on the doors.

·         Repair or replace broken windows as soon as possible. A broken window is both an open invitation and a sign to intruders that other entry points may be just as neglected.

·         Use curtains or blinds over any windows or doors that are easy to see into.

·         A peephole allows you to see who is at your door without having to open it and without a visitor looking into your home.

·         Keep a wooden dowel or stick in the track of sliding glass doors to prevent them from being opened from the outside if the lock is broken.

·         Keep expensive equipment and items away from your windows and inside the house instead of on your patio.

Make sure skylights and roof-access areas are properly secured with heavy-duty hardware.

Install locks or secondary security devices on all accessible windows so they can't be opened far enough for someone to crawl through from the outside.

·         Always lock up all doors and windows — including second-floor windows — even if you're just going out for a few minutes.

·         A door that locks from the inside is great — but it needs to lock on the outside as well!

·         A chain lock allows you to talk to someone outside your door without opening it all the way. (PANAMA NOTE: use a peep-hole and decide whether or not you want to talk to the person.)

·         If you have the same key for all your locks, have one door re-keyed and use that key to give to contractors or visitors. If the key is lost, you will only have to change one lock on your house.  (PANAMA NOTE: Install two locks on the door that the contractors or maid must use and you give can give them a key for one lock knowing that when they are not there you can lock the other lock and that they do not have a key for it. Simple, cheap and a relief to know your key is not out somewhere for copies).

·         Do you and your family members often misplace keys? Use color-coded key chains that work with a radio transmitter. Then just press the button that matches the color of your key chain and a tone will go off, letting you know where your keys are.

·         When you move into a house or apartment, have the locks re-keyed. There's no telling who the previous residents may have given a spare key to, or whether they kept one themselves. (PANAMA NOTE: Décor in Paitilla will re-key locks. There are others as well.)

·         To avoid being locked out of your house, secure a spare key in a combination or key lockbox on your property, or leave one with a trusted neighbor.

·         Original locks may look quaint, but they are nearly always unsafe. Modern locks can be refitted while keeping the original integrity of the house.

In The Yard and Outside the House

·         {mosimage} In your yard, keep ladders, garbage cans, building supplies and tools locked up out of view so you don't provide an intruder with the means to break into your home.

·         Put big, bold numbers on your mailbox so your home can easily be identified in case of an emergency.

·         Put your lot or house number outside your home in a lit area. Lighted area will deter burglars Use reflective numbers, so that your number can be seen by emergency services in the case of a power outage. (PANAMA NOTE: In Panama, Police and Fire have different ways of finding address. To ensure you are found quickly in the case of an emergency, give the area you live in and your lot number or apartment number when you call in an emergency.)

·         Don't hide a spare key near your front door; burglars know all the hiding places. Leave a spare key with a trusted neighbor instead.

·         Planting thorny shrubs, rosebushes or cacti around the outside of your home can discourage burglars from entering your property.

·         Placing alarm-company signs, neighborhood-watch decals or dog notices on your property tells burglars to steer clear of your home. Having these signs as a deterrent is only good if you can back them up. Don't rely on them or mistake them as doing the job of the real thing.

·         Trim shrubs and trees so they do not provide hiding places for an intruder. Remove tree limbs that could allow someone to climb to an upper-story window or balcony.

·        A solid privacy fence can provide a burglar with cover to break into your home. Consider an iron railing (topped with spikes, to discourage climbers), picket or chain-link fence instead. If you have a gate, install a strong magnetic lock on it to prevent intruders from easily penetrating the perimeter of your property.

·         Keep all points of entry to your home well-lit. Consider installing motion-sensor lights on the rear and sides of your home and position them in out-of-reach places so they can't easily be turned off by a would-be thief.

Your Valuables and Identity


  • Having photos, videos and serial numbers of your valuables can be extremely helpful in identifying your stolen goods.

·         Contact the manufacturers of some of your valuables, as they may have advice or additional products on how to better secure and protect them from thieves.

·         Invisible-ink pens can be used to identify your property a simple ultraviolet light on stolen property will show the police who the real owner is.

·         Photocopy receipts of expensive items and store them in a safe place so you have proof of purchase for insurance reasons.

·         Use a bolted-down safe or a heavy-duty filing cabinet with a lock that cannot be carried out of the house to store important documents, information and valuables. It's a simple investment that will protect vital possessions.

·         Shred documents with personal information (such as bank and credit-card statements).

·         Keep equipment for expensive hobbies (boats, Jet Skis, golf clubs, etc.) covered up — even better, keep them locked up out of sight.

·         What you think is well hidden is nearly always easy pickings for burglars, so lock things up instead of keeping them in "clever" hiding places like the freezer, the bag of sugar or the cookie jar.

·         Leaving empty boxes from your new computer, DVD player or TV on the curb for trash pickup advertises that you have things worth stealing in your home. Break boxes down or cut them up to conceal what they contained.

·         A computer lock is an easy and inexpensive way to protect valuable personal or customer information. Computers are expensive items to replace.

·          Blank CDs are a cheap and easy way to back up information on your computer in case it's stolen.

·       {mosimage}  Instead of keeping jewels hidden in your home, a safe-deposit box is a smart place to keep valuables secure from theft. If you insist on keeping them in the house, lock your jewelry and other valuables in a bolted-down floor safe.

·         Keep information about your safe-deposit box separate from any personal identification documents such as passports or Social Security cards. If these documents are stolen, you could suffer further losses if someone is able to use them to gain access to your safe-deposit box.

·         Be sure to lock your bikes and four-wheelers to a bolted-down surface.

·         For pricey heirlooms, get serious about securing them photograph, catalogue and put them on your homeowner's policy. So if a heist ever goes down, you're covered.

·         An art-security hanger makes a painting difficult to remove from the wall by "locking" it in place. In addition, a product like "DataDots" records identification information on an adhesive the size of a grain of sand, so your artwork is traceable if stolen.

Your Vacation

·         Set lights on timers or light sensors to turn on and off in the evening. A TV or radio can also be set on a timer to add to the illusion that someone is at home.

·         If you use a yard service, make sure they come to your house while you're away. An overgrown lawn is a good sign that no one is home.

·         Leave a car in your driveway, or ask a neighbor to park there.

·         Leave shades, curtains and blinds in their normal positions. Covered windows during the daytime indicate an empty house.

Miscellaneous Tips

·         Getting to know your neighbors will help them to immediately alert you of any suspicious behavior on your property. Notifying them when you're going away and how you can be contacted in case of emergency will allow you to be aware of a crisis as soon as it occurs. However, although your neighbors may be trustworthy, they may not spot anything different if a robber is at work in your house. Don't solely count on them to protect your home while you're away.

·         Don't be fooled into thinking that just because your neighbors can see local comings and goings that they will question anything unusual. Good thieves make themselves blend in.

·         Be careful to whom you disclose personal information. Don't discuss vacation plans or expensive hobbies in public places — you never know who's listening!

·         If you're a professional working out of your house, rather than use your home address on your business cards or Web site, rent a post-office box instead.

·         Becoming involved in a neighborhood association or neighborhood watch will give you information you need to know about any suspicious activity in your area.

·         It doesn't matter what environment or community your home is in, thieves are impervious to them.

·         If you come home and something looks questionable — a slit screen, a broken window, an open door — don't go inside! Call the police from your neighbor's or from your cell phone.

·         Burglars often target the elderly, so be friendly and keep an eye out for local retirees.

·         When living with multiple people, make sure everyone understands the importance of home security. It only takes one person to leave everyone else vulnerable. But don't rely on others; keep your private possessions locked away.

·         If you have had a bad experience already with a crook — learn from it — don't just think bad luck won't strike twice!


Local Police Numbers

Chame 240-6666
DIIP 240-6676
Coronado 240-4222 o 240-1279
Gorgona 240-6033
Bejuco 240-6023
Sora 240-7049

Three alarm companies that have been used in Coronado or area.
If you know more, please email Jamuna, to add thier names to this list:

  • Alarmas Comerciales, Bethania, Panama, Leonel Gonzales (English spoken), Ph: 278-0967(68), email:
  • MDM Securites Inc, Obarrio, Panama, Mabelle Salazar (English spoken): Ph: 264-8820, email:
  • Alarms Cosissa, La Chorrera, Gustavo Gomez, (Brother speaks English), Ph: 254-0806, email: