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eloso: I would rethink your security plans. Really, if you don't have "much" then you will not be a target -- unless -- your security makes it SEEM like you have something worth stealing.

 

Just be friendly and easygoing with people and laugh off any insinuation that you are "rich." For example: Whenever possible, I tell people I live on a "government pension." Government pensions are notoriously small, so that puts a thought into their head. When they tell me they have a house/lot/property for sale, I laugh and tell them I don't have any money and am renting a house and I don't know any "rich gringos." I travel twice a year to the US to visit family but when discussing this (always AFTER the fact and NOT before), I always manage to work into the conversation that my sons pay for the tickets.

 

There are all forms of security and you need to have a better strategy than just threats. They actually just don't work. And forget violence. It can only get you into trouble one way or another. The very worst thing you can do is make people feel unwelcome at your house. Now, you are just another "###### gringo." What you want them to feel is "Don Oso" -- part of their community and fitting in.

You make some very good points.

I think my stragegy of having a hidden reinforced closet for my laptop etc is still not a bad idea. No one except a few will know it's there and if they try to get into it they will likely get caught spending so much time on it... not to mention getting videotaped by the camera I'll have pointed at it... ;-D

 

Maybe the threatening signs are overkill. I would only do that I guess AFTER being robbed. I am guessing you've never been robbed, Eleanor?

It makes a difference. I know people who've been robbed twice and it changes their whole approach and attitude. They're good people, always good to Ticos, not rich... but robbed twice...

 

I do agree with you that being "don Oso" is good. One doesn't have to negate the other. Nothing wrong with having a secure safe, and hey if they do break into it and steal a mediocre laptop, some cd's, a couple mp3 players, a couple medicore tablets, then so be it. Hopefully we'll have the $ to replace them...

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It's interesting how many people have varying ideas on how to be secure from robbery in Costa Rica.
I thought I had a pretty good plan but I see now that - even if I do go with my original plan? - I have some other ideas to consider.

As with most things there is kind of 2 extremes of thought in this thread .... and the best way may well lie somewhere in the middle.

 

Since I cannot own a gun for about 3 years or 4 years (after becoming a permanent resident) I will give up on that aspect of my security plan.

 

I will stick with the "hidden closet" reinforced with rebar or other steel and two super heavy duty locks, where I will put the laptops, tablets, hard drives etc when we go out.

 

I will have lights that come on when people approach the house, security cams, and signs that say "if you rob us you will be videotaped" and "we shoot robbers" even if I don't really have a gun. I can still play the SOUND of a gun at full volume on my speakers from time to time or get some m80 firecrackers or ? that sound like a gun.

 

I will be an upstanding member of the community, with Tico friends, contribute to local causes, and hope that buys me some goodwill that MAY help. If not, I still want to do it because that's "how I roll".

 

Our property location is a big plus because the house is not visible from the street at all and one would have to climb a fence and walk a ways carrying the stuff they stole, while in fear that I'm on my way back home with my (imaginary) shotgun in hand...

Edited by elosodelcerro

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Just a note based on personal experience and observation regarding living securely in Costa Rica - or any other place on Planet Earth. Maybe this dialogue will help some newcomers take steps to live safely in this particular place.

 

We all seek/enjoy 'immersing ourselves' in the flavor of the local culture. It's not a 'vanilla' one like we left behind, but a kaleidoscopic salsa.

 

Of course, no one likes to discuss or worry about their personal safety, that's not fun. But 'pura vida' has both positive and negative connotations.

 

This forum allows us to share experiences that at first seem unique to us, but we learn they are common to all. I write this believing I have no more enemies here than you, maybe less.

 

As a US Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines from 1975-78 I was thoroughly immersed in the barrio life. 'Twitter'? I received hand-delivered telegrams teletyped on brown, recycled rag paper.

 

The first year I lacked electricity and the first six months I carried water in buckets from down the street for flushing the toilet, showering and washing dishes. The landlady kept pigs outside my kitchen window making food scrap disposal easy. Crying babies, arguments between spouses, sewing machines pumped by foot at 4am and loud sex was all part of it. The next-door houses were one meter away on either side of my plywood walls. For awhile, young children would stand around my open wood-louvered windows (no screens or glass) to observe myself and my American room-mate go about doing what people go about doing when only their basic needs are being met. We read a lot. Drank San Miguel at room temperature. Played chess by candlelight. The kids, some butt-naked, were entertained until they finally got bored.

 

My first assignment was in Santa Domingo, Albay working with the World Bank/Central Bank of the Philippines in coordination with three rural banks. My task was to locate qualifying small businesses and offer expansion loans. 'Small' meaning a guy growing 100 m2 of rice or two ladies selling abaca (a fiber) place mats to an exporter filling a container parked under the pili-nut tree. The interest rate was 18% and the micro-loan had to be backed by 400% collateral. I wrote contracts (in Bicol) pledging water buffalo and 125cc motorcycles. The process took months but I helped a few people.

 

Then I received two separate assassination threats in the form of notes slid under the door and into my sala. I took the second one very seriously. Certain school-teacher-type friends informed me that these messages were from either the chief of police or maybe the mayor, who didn't want 'competition' to their power/influence from any newly successful business people. Maybe I should find a 'better' job.

 

I was re-assigned by PCorps-Manila and became a track and field coach at a University.

 

The only theft during my years - and I owned nothing besides clothes and snorkeling gear and a Frisbee - occurred one night when I saw an arm extending through the louvered bedroom window searching for things laying on the rattan bed. I grabbed the guys' arm and started pulling, ending up with his T-Shirt which ID'd him as being from the local police dept.

 

Maybe he was not a cop, just someone wearing the shirt. He got away, jumping over the cement block wall with broken glass cemented on top. Ouch.

 

The take-away from this experience and some similar neighborly-deeds here in CR is that foreigners believing that 'acting generously' in their adopted community will inoculate them from theft or danger is not a certainty.

 

And I'll go rogue here for a moment with my opinion that its hypocritical to 'teach English for an hour a week in the school' or express a need to 'give back to the community' as a strategy to gain protection from theft. Do these things because you enjoy helping, teaching and meeting people. Otherwise its just a cynical ploy to avoid being robbed.

 

And it will make no difference anyway. Most of the nice people you help are not the 'dopers' or 'for-profit' thieves who will visit your home with bad intent.

 

I read a statement here from one revered contributor that she "lets people see how much she doesn't have" as a way to avoid home invasion. I won't argue with the success she's had so far.

 

But I note that conversations between Tico house-wives take place with one party inside the bars, the other outside the bars. Why? I must have a different circle of acquaintances after 18 years here, but the advice I hear is to not let anyone inside your house. Maybe I hear this advice because I'm a nosy journalist and ask the question 'differently' then you would to the wise abuelas I know.

 

The Ticos I know believe that for personal safety anonymity is the best shield. The warmest cocoon is found surrounded by family inside the walls of the homestead. I'll suggest that keeping a low profile would best serve the majority of foreigners living here.

 

We've all read the methods some have written about for self-protection.

 

Guns (a true magnet for thieves while increasing your likelihood of your suicide by 1,200%).

 

Warning signs (as if the crooks can read).

 

If you want warning signs, why not install some on outside walls with a red lightning bolt and a black 'skull-and-crossbones' signifying electrocution? Tell your neighbors you have hidden wires on the inside.

 

Obviously, unlike in Dubuque, the police aren't usually responding in a timely manner, and paying INS for insurance for stolen items leaves everything to be desired.

 

I've paid neighborhood gardeners and 'watch people' to hang around my house when I was out of the country. They didn't fulfill the job description, sometimes bringing over others to party. I over-paid the gardener and he could and did hire others to mow the lawn. Then everyone knew I was gone.

 

Over-paying for goods and services here (or anywhere not involving asking Sherpas to cross the Ice Fall again) is not a sign of 'kind generosity' but of ignorance of local prices and hence......

 

My present security strategy focuses on blocking others from a home invasion which would cause me bodily harm. Especially an event commencing when I sleep. I read one comment here that the writer would wait to increase security until AFTER he had suffered his first problem.

 

Could be his 'last problem'.

 

I live alone. Geese would make a better 'alarm' than a dog that could be poisoned but I'll have neither. I will have narrow, screen windows mounted above eye level (with bars) for my bedroom. The door to the bedroom will be heavy metal and double dead- bolted.

 

Are we all aware of the thriving business here in massive, if beautiful, quadruple-dead-bolted, metal but wood-looking doors costing over $1,000? The dead bolts extend deep into the door.

 

Sure, I won't outrun an earthquake.

 

Above my bedroom teak ceiling will be a 'malla' which is a metal grid, used as reinforcement when pouring a driveway, so anyone outside climbing up and prying off the tin roof when I'm not home will still have an obstruction to saw through. And yes, I will have rolled fiberglass insulation in between it all to keep the rain quiet and the room cool.

 

All other house outside windows will have bars.

 

I know, I know. People don't like burglar bars. Me either. My mother in Fort Myers, 85, mocks me, "I wouldn't live anywhere I needed to have bars on the windows." Jaja. She lives in a gated, check ID, over-45 community with guards driving around at night in golf carts. Last month, someone robbed the next door Wal-Mart and she found 5 police cars parked in her cul-de-sac. I asked her if they caught the guy. She was afraid to ask the cops.

 

So here in Costa Rica, if you live lacking guards on golf carts, gate ID checks and cops who show up en masse in 120 seconds or less for a shoplifter, bars are OK.

 

Here's an idea. Have them custom made, i.e. 'Arte hiero'.

 

For the second time here I'm copying the ornamental bars found protecting the 17th century cathedral in Reims, France. Elegent. On moonlight nights the shadows they cast are beyond romantic. I consider them a fantastic upgrade on all levels. Yeah it cost money, and you won't do it if you rent. My every good night's sleep is worth the investment.

 

If you have a large lot, a wall high enough such that the bad guys can't know if someone is home is critical. And no need to break the bank as any wall can be climbed. Just do enough wall, edged by some healthy, pointy veranera for privacy and you'll dissuade all but the most incorrigible.

 

I reject the concept that by 'building walls' or 'having bars' one increases one's risk by targeting you as someone with special wealth.

 

'Being Gringo' in Costa Rica has commonality with 'Being Black' in Baltimore. You are at risk.

 

Lastly, an outside, motion-activated wireless alarm system with back-up battery can 1.wake you up if your property has been invaded while the bad guys are still outside of the house and 2. likely cause them to retreat to a quieter place.

 

Am I being unduly paranoid or hysterical?

 

Ask Ryan Piercy. He's got more street smarts than the collective knowledge of this forum.

 

And in the 'nice guys finish last' category I'll reference the late shop-owner in Guanacaste who was Santa for the neighborhood kids and murdered at his hotel.

 

Market demographics show Ticos now prefer living in gated/guarded condo communities. Its not just for the swimming pool.

 

Next up, delicious jacote recipes embellished with ants.

Wow. That's a lot of words to say that you sound very scared to live in Costa Rica.

May I ask what area you live in? Is it San Jose'?

is it a bad neighborhood of San Jose'?

 

I ask because it does sound like either you're kind of paranoid or else you have had some very bad experiences in Costa Rica with robbers etc.

 

Honestly, I thought my security ideas were pretty extreme but yours make mine sound like nothing.

 

If I had to live in fear like it seems like you do, I'd definitely move somewhere where I felt safer.

Just sayin'.

 

That said I really don't think MOST areas in Costa Rica warrant the kind of security you're talking about having!

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The key words are "in the back". This means that you are not defending yourself but are the perpetrator. This is VERY clearly explained when you take the firearms course here in Costa Rica. (and yes it applies to arrows)

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Years ago, after reporting the robbery that took place on the farm, a forum member contacted me explaining that in Nosara. it was 'common' to use a gas that was sprayed through opened windows in the bedroom, that would render both people and pets, unconcious, then the villians would break into the residence. This method was repeated and reported on, a month or two ago, up in Puerto San Luis, near Neuvo Arenal. The forum member advised us to keep a fan going all night on your bedside table.

 

It is quite common for the thieves to come in through the roof, so I second Marsrox's suggestion. :ph34r: It even happened at our local bank.

 

On a rural property with no immediate neighbors or when a house is not visible from the street, this could mean the robbers can take their time as no-one can see them...

 

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The instances or chances of getting robbed or a home invasion definitely have to do with where you live! While crime seems to be rampant in the little community where CRF lives, it's "just over the mountain" from where I live (1.5 hours away) but there is very little crime in the town where I live and very very few instances of the kinds of thefts CRF mentions as well as NO instances of the gas thing that is mentioned.

 

Part of the issue of crime against expats is living in a community where it is perceived that there are a lot of expats with money or expat visitors with money. Of course, you can also live in a very "safe" community and stick out like a sore thumb if you drive a brand new range rover, buy a piece of land for $500,000 and proceed to build a hotel.

 

So "perception" has a lot to do with it. A few years ago, there was a series of small-time robberies in the town where I live that turned out to be a group of teenagers looking for drug money. They stole TV's and laptops, etc. The few gringos that were living in town (two were Peace Corps volunteers) were broken into -- but not my house. I couldn't figure out why and finally came to two conclusions: 1. I always make it clear in any conversation that I live on a "government pension." I travel to the US sometimes twice a year to visit family and if that topic ever comes up, I always say that my son buys my airline ticket. So local people don't think I am a "rich gringa." 2. Later, I found out that one of the "gang" members was part of a local extended family that had "adopted" me. Whether he steered his cohorts away from my house or it was just a coincidence, I will never know.

 

So CRF has painted a picture of "the worst that could happen" more or less, but it doesn't necessarily have to be that way. I bought some land and built a house to live in and then, over time, built two small houses to rent to tourists. I was careful about my tools, etc, but I never had one single thing stolen from the property. And I never had any problems whatsoever with the workers I hired. (Even the "foreman" of the project that I ended up firing.)

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If you use a deadly weapon, an arrow, against someone who does not represent an immediate threat, e.g. who is running away, you are certainly guilty of a crime in CR, and in many other countries, including many US states.

Edited by induna

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Many years ago I vacationed in a remote beach area on the Pacific coast of Mexico. There were several homes there that were built for gringos and others as vacation homes. Most of the vacationers left the homes vacant during the very hot summer months since electricity and air conditioning were not available there. Most of the homes had a "safe room" which was built like a concrete vault. There the owners would store anything that was not bolted down or they could not take with them. Interestingly, most of the furniture in these houses was built out of concrete by the construction crew. It was built-in and impossible to move/steal. There the thieves would remove several roof tiles to enter the home. The safe room had it's own reinforced concrete ceiling along with four walls of the same construction and a steel door. I suppose that if I had a vacation home in a remote area in CR similar precautions would be necessary. I don't live in a vacation home nor in a remote area so I have no need. I leave my house any time I like, sometimes for extended periods, without worry. (Famous last words! :lol: )

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After a night of shakin' the bees out of the honey hive, "The Hill Bear" (El Oso del Cerro) shared his thoughts with me/us at 3:56 this morning writing:

 

"Wow. That's a lot of words to say that you sound very scared to live in Costa Rica. May I ask what area you live in? Is it San Jose'? Is it a bad neighborhood of San Jose'?

 

I ask because it does sound like either you're kind of paranoid or else you have had some very bad experiences in Costa Rica with robbers etc.

Honestly, I thought my security ideas were pretty extreme but yours make mine sound like nothing.

If I had to live in fear like it seems like you do, I'd definitely move somewhere where I felt safer. Just sayin'.

That said I really don't think MOST areas in Costa Rica warrant the kind of security you're talking about having!"

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It was the best/worst of times, it is the best/worst of times since I chose CR over certain Caribbean islands, Mexico, Ecuador and Bolivia as the place to hang my last sombrero. Bear, here's a "lot more words" (what do you expect from a writer?)

I've lived in San Pedro (rented apartment), Los Yoses (rented condo), Alajuela (rented apartment), Ciudad Colon (rented mansion), Tambor de Alajuela (owned a 6,000m2 walled estate with 800m home w/'full amenities'), Santa Ana (rented home in gated community), and am now building a modest home outside of Puriscal on a 1,750m lot with a mountain-top sunset view of the Golfo de Nicoya. 'Unfortunately' for me, since I prefer to live in Campo Tiquicia, the area nearby is surprisingly and quickly filling with retired, wide-eyed newbies, mostly American pensionados, overbuilding the place with spectacular homes sure to eventually attract 'attention'. You rob the bank because "that's where the money is." I wanted to be in the middle of no-where, but its turning into the middle of some-where.

At each of those places I once lived, I endlessly heard Tico/Extranero stories of break-in, theft, cars stolen from front yards while the owner's timidly hid behind the doors, bodily threats of every sort. Far more nastiness than anything I heard in my younger days in Ft Myers or Cleveland.

For awhile I considered that from the Tico POV there had been so little crime throughout the country's non-militant, peaceful history (not including financial crimes of past Presidents or imported crime from the likes of Robert Vesco) that ANY crime was blown out-of-proportion.

But since the turn of the century, I no longer believe that. Crime in Costa Rican is most often unresolved and should the police even catch a perpetrator they practice 'catch and release'. People arrested for forty armed robberies now walk the streets looking for victims. I note that on 'Canal 7 at 7' last night, video taken outside of a Jaco club showed a man shooting and killing another right on the street. There was a small crowd, the guy pushed the 'victim' onto the road, and shot him in the head. Wow. Shield the eyes of the little babies. If I understood correctly, the killer was captured and is presently serving 30 days of 'preventive detention'. Then what? And then what 'detention' does the person who stole your new 55" Samsung flat-screen receive based on that scale of justice? Smells like the laws here were written by Robin Hood.

BREAKING NEWS! Dateline Ciudad Colon (July 2, 2015) Truck stolen from Gated Community

An American contractor woke yesterday morning to see his recently purchased Toyota truck missing from his locked, gated driveway. "I don't know how they got past the guardhouse, let alone broke the lock on my personal gate and somehow started the truck and drove it out past the guard. I just bought it and thought the past owner said the insurance was still good, but now I see its not. I am a condo builder here and there were six laptops full of all my work on the front seat of the truck." The truck has not been recovered. The owner says that in the future he will install a GPS tracking system and a device to remotely cut the engine.

Update: Officials have learned that a young girl cleaning the home of an American contractor while he and his wife were at work, was visited by her boyfriend who allegedly stole copies of keys used to open the owner's gate and drive off with his truck. Although the man has been identified, the whereabouts of neither he nor the truck are known.

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This contractor has worked for me.

Maybe the events that change the lives of people you know should color your decision making.

Ryan of ARCR is a friend of mine, too. I'm unaware of any reason why he was targeted for kidnapping other than he's a 'Gringo'.

A past next door neighbor who was affiliated with the CR 'Mafia' had his dogs poisoned and his fancy car stolen from his driveway. He didn't call the cops, he waited for the ransom call, paid it outside the La Sabana McD, and drove it home. When I bought my house he was the caretaker and offered me a loan of a .45 caliber pistol, "You shouldn't live here alone without protection." I didn't want to own a heavy obligation to him and declined.

This same neighbor also for some weeks secretly housed WWII war-criminal Bohdan Koziy who was wanted for extradition to Poland, Israel, the United States and Germany. Police from several countries were here looking for him. I know all this because I bought Koziy's estate in Tambor de Alajuela.

My interest was first piqued regarding this extraordinary circumstance when my neighbors told me I never needed to worry about being robbed. "Your house is haunted."

By the spirits of the hundreds of dead Jews Koziy was accused of having a part in massacring.

I sat on the back steps of a house at night that was more ruin then B&B with a beer and called for the spirits to join me. Disappointingly, they never did.

Otherwise, one would say that it's a very tranquil neighborhood.

I had been in the house for several years when after cleaning up boxes of papers and documents one New Year's Eve day, 2005 back in Ft Myers I came upon a 1985 copy of the Tico Times. I had saved it as a souvenir of my first visit to Costa Rica, here for one week. I saw a headline about a missing Nazi war criminal on p1. I turned to p2 to read the rest of the story and there was a 1/4 page photo of my house.

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Published government crime statistics reveal the 'percentage of households by canton' that suffer various forms of crime. I consider my move from the Central Valley over the mountains one that will serve me well as I approach my twilight years since the area around Puriscal is statistically the safest in the country. Many of my soon-to-be neighbors don't even have window bars. I talk to workers at the pulperias and businesses and most are proud of the 'tranquility' found in this bucolic place.

But in the next years that could change for the worse.

I'm building a house for both the present and the future and am acting on that sad possibility now. I won't wait until I am robbed, kidnapped for ransom or murdered to protect my property or life.

The measures I mentioned in this thread for the information of 'new-comers' reading this forum were to balance some of the naive, but hopeful commentary found here, not to exhibit unreasonable personal paranoia. Of course most Ticos, like people everywhere, are not dangerous. Just a few. Every apple orchard has some rotten fruit.

For those who haven't heard of or experienced bad behavior and luckily wake up and go to bed with the same smile, I'll mention these givens.

Point #1 to ponder is that it is probable that the police are not going to respond to your call in a timely fashion, assuming they even answer the phone. Assume that your personal safety is 100% your responsibility.

Point #2 is that anyone depending on an INS Hogar policy to replace stolen items hasn't read the policy.

Most kind contributors here seem to have the attitude that if things go missing in a home invasion they will simply purchase more. Fine. There are cases where the robbers literally 'back up the truck'. My funds are more limited, many items have sentimental value, so I need to have a different strategy, and mine is pro-active. It has nothing to do with paranoia, nothing scares me anymore. I perceive this threat as a challenge, another cost of living here (along with paying for the Caja). I like to 'win' challenges. Actually, the many challenges here are one of the reasons I love the place, v the vanilla life found elsewhere, although that casts doubt on my sanity with people who must use disinfecting wipes on the handles of supermarket carts at Publix.

I could live without the challenge of public buses passing me going uphill around a curve. I'll roll my own dice, thank you.

While a lot of break-in theft occurs when the home is known to be unoccupied - and why even a helpless female teenager is considered 'security'- countless break-ins involve people with guns that tie you up with duct tape. Hopefully, all readers here are aware of this.

Of course, like winning El Gordo, your personal odds of 'tasting the tape' are < 1% (the flavor is NOT like chicken).

But does this sense of reality define me as 'paranoid'?

Were you paranoid back in the States when you purchased homeowner's insurance that covered theft? Where you paranoid and fearful living somewhere only calmed knowing the police would respond in two minutes to your 911 call of 'strangers walking in the yard'?

Were you paranoid and terrified - even having neighbors suggest that you ought to consider 'living elsewhere' - because you posted an 'ADT' sign in your front yard even though you didn't even pay for ADT?

I am not going to pay a guard to sit in a little box all day by my front gate or walk the lot at night. I am not installing electrified barbed wire. I will not purchase a shotgun although I qualify. I'm not putting in a camera security system. I'm not asking someone's maid's daughter to watch TV in my sala while I go to town to shop at Super-Pali.

My goal for investing in this limited security is to influence any bad guys to pass by my house since they can't see it to know if anyone is home. My goal is to not wake up at 3am with a gun stuck in my ear. I'm sure that the foreigners I've read about in the media didn't think they would be kidnapped, robbed at gunpoint, carjacked driving back from the beach and permanently missing or murdered. "I'm nice to people!"

I'll reiterate my words from the first post to this thread.

A wall won't keep out the bad guys no matter how high or radioactive. But blocking the view of your home will create a doubt that only a really stupid burglar will ignore. A wall will keep someone from walking or driving in uninvited.

Window bars won't keep someone wanting to get into your home and steal the silverware from backing up a truck, attaching a chain and pulling them off. But they will defeat 'cockroach crime, which is the majority of offenses.

I have already installed the 'malla' in my home, which is similar to sheets of rebar used in road/sidewalk construction. It goes under the tin roof and will slow/foil the badguys from moving away from the 'difficult' window bars to pulling off the roof for entry in my absence. I have had the workers, the contractor, and Ticos who know me applaud this 'street smart' action, then tell me countless tales of themselves and others who's homes were violated through their roofs. This work cost me about $100.

Solar-powered Motion lights will light up the area and bad guys like darkness. Another $100.

A battery backup motion alarm with wireless sensors outside the homes' entry points will wake me up from my slumber so I can at least grab my machete and run at the perp, naked like a crazy man. Maybe he shoots and kills me out of utter terror. If I remember to wear my 'Go Pro' you can watch my flaming but proud demise on You-Tube some day. I bought the alarm system a few years ago for the other house for $500, but this is much less expensive now.

I forgot that I need to have a heavy metal ring sunk into the concrete garage floor to shackle down my Toyota Prada Land Cruiser (full extras :>) so it can't be hotwired and driven away the same day I take two buses (because they're fun) to SJO to shop for Chinese groceries.

BTW - When I park I use 'The Club'.

The one-time costs of these measures is small compared to the deterrence and 'sleep well at night' benefits they offer. Compare them to the annual cost of homeowner's insurance which covers theft, ADT monitoring service, and the taxes you pay for police protection in the US. So six of this and a half-dozen of the other.

Does this all work?

After 18 years I haven't had a loss. I have had one attempted and unsuccessful home invasion. So far, so good.

I will not share other personal danger 'adventures' in Costa Rica, other countries I've lived in or the USA, but I've lived my very full life mostly as a single man (scorned women are sometimes revengeful), a political activist for the environment and human rights (publicly named government agency officials and evil people that want to dig gold mines in the jungle can cause you direct harm) and have owned legitimate and 'hobby' businesses (oddly, not all customers and competing businesses will always be satisfied).

I have been targeted by more than my share of the 'slings and arrows' of outrageous fortune because I have strong convictions, offer researched opinions that I hope are not biased by stupidity, and I am not bashful about sharing the good news.

That's all fine, you pay to play and its too be expected when I'm in public. Some here will probably share their somewhat different perceptions.

But this is about home sweet home, don't invade my castle, knave.

The workers building my home have been living in their on-site shack for two months now and tell me that the streetlight at the end of my driveway attracts more than swirling bats eating bugs.

My home-to-be is located at the end of a dirt road that peters out to a cow path. Friday and Saturday nights for the last two months of construction has seen late night gatherings of jovens driving up in cars and motorcycles who smoke pot and drink. Probably benign. I'll bet a lot of them wear black clothes and even have tattoos! If I call the police they probably won't respond to this non-issue, but word will get out of my call and I'll make enemies.

If my house sat naked on the road, un-walled, un-barred, un-alarmed, and they gathered outside my sala I'd consider it a gross invasion of privacy with the potential to escalate to unknown heights. But there will be a bit of a moat. So I could ignore them, but I'd stew in my juices twice a week since I sought privacy and not midnight regaetton blasting from their cars.

What would you do?

Me being me, I already know that the first night I live there and they show up I am destined to 'meet and greet'. I love people. Maybe I'll meet a new girlfriend.

And maybe if I insist on hanging around asking questions about their lives and cars and making jokes about President Solis' economic austerity plans and tax increases while describing my fears of water shortages and coffee blights they will decide talking to this ole' Gringos not much fun and will go elsewhere.

I'll tell them I'm allergic to smoke, "If you don't mind..." Ticos are naturally respectful of the elderly.

Maybe I bring out my 'ghetto blaster' and share my favorite Mozart horn concertos (check them out!)

Pro-active.

So there you go, Bear. A lot more words.

I hope they help someone.

I wasn't kidding about the horn concertos. French horns rock.

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Years ago, after reporting the robbery that took place on the farm, a forum member contacted me explaining that in Nosara. it was 'common' to use a gas that was sprayed through opened windows in the bedroom, that would render both people and pets, unconcious, then the villians would break into the residence. This method was repeated and reported on, a month or two ago, up in Puerto San Luis, near Neuvo Arenal. The forum member advised us to keep a fan going all night on your bedside table.

 

It is quite common for the thieves to come in through the roof, so I second Marsrox's suggestion. :ph34r: It even happened at our local bank.

 

On a rural property with no immediate neighbors or when a house is not visible from the street, this could mean the robbers can take their time as no-one can see them...

 

Good points. Thanks.

I still think that a home not visible from the main road and down a "lane" and over a fence is less susceptible to being broken into than one right off the main road that is visible.

But time will tell who is right on this, or maybe just random chance is a main factor...

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If you were going to rob a house would you do it in plain sight of a main road or would you "case the joint" and do it out of sight at your convenience?

I have no intention of burgling anyone but I would choose option 2.

Cheers .... Terry

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I don't think it matters where your house is located as far as "remote" or "on the main road." Thieves can burgle your house no matter where it is, if they are determined to do so. But don't be lulled into thinking that if you live "in the woods" that no one knows you're there. EVERYONE knows! And they probably know what you are having for dinner, based on what you bought at the supermarket. Unless you live in Atenas or Grecia or Escazu, gringos are obvious.

Edited by eleanorcr

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Good points. Thanks.

I still think that a home not visible from the main road and down a "lane" and over a fence is less susceptible to being broken into than one right off the main road that is visible.

But time will tell who is right on this, or maybe just random chance is a main factor...

 

After a night of shakin' the bees out of the honey hive, "The Hill Bear" (El Oso del Cerro) shared his thoughts with me/us at 3:56 this morning writing:

 

"Wow. That's a lot of words to say that you sound very scared to live in Costa Rica. May I ask what area you live in? Is it San Jose'? Is it a bad neighborhood of San Jose'?

 

I ask because it does sound like either you're kind of paranoid or else you have had some very bad experiences in Costa Rica with robbers etc.

Honestly, I thought my security ideas were pretty extreme but yours make mine sound like nothing.

If I had to live in fear like it seems like you do, I'd definitely move somewhere where I felt safer. Just sayin'.

That said I really don't think MOST areas in Costa Rica warrant the kind of security you're talking about having!"

**********************************************************************************************************************************************

It was the best/worst of times, it is the best/worst of times since I chose CR over certain Caribbean islands, Mexico, Ecuador and Bolivia as the place to hang my last sombrero. Bear, here's a "lot more words" (what do you expect from a writer?)

I've lived in San Pedro (rented apartment), Los Yoses (rented condo), Alajuela (rented apartment), Ciudad Colon (rented mansion), Tambor de Alajuela (owned a 6,000m2 walled estate with 800m home w/'full amenities'), Santa Ana (rented home in gated community), and am now building a modest home outside of Puriscal on a 1,750m lot with a mountain-top sunset view of the Golfo de Nicoya. 'Unfortunately' for me, since I prefer to live in Campo Tiquicia, the area nearby is surprisingly and quickly filling with retired, wide-eyed newbies, mostly American pensionados, overbuilding the place with spectacular homes sure to eventually attract 'attention'. You rob the bank because "that's where the money is." I wanted to be in the middle of no-where, but its turning into the middle of some-where.

At each of those places I once lived, I endlessly heard Tico/Extranero stories of break-in, theft, cars stolen from front yards while the owner's timidly hid behind the doors, bodily threats of every sort. Far more nastiness than anything I heard in my younger days in Ft Myers or Cleveland.

For awhile I considered that from the Tico POV there had been so little crime throughout the country's non-militant, peaceful history (not including financial crimes of past Presidents or imported crime from the likes of Robert Vesco) that ANY crime was blown out-of-proportion.

But since the turn of the century, I no longer believe that. Crime in Costa Rican is most often unresolved and should the police even catch a perpetrator they practice 'catch and release'. People arrested for forty armed robberies now walk the streets looking for victims. I note that on 'Canal 7 at 7' last night, video taken outside of a Jaco club showed a man shooting and killing another right on the street. There was a small crowd, the guy pushed the 'victim' onto the road, and shot him in the head. Wow. Shield the eyes of the little babies. If I understood correctly, the killer was captured and is presently serving 30 days of 'preventive detention'. Then what? And then what 'detention' does the person who stole your new 55" Samsung flat-screen receive based on that scale of justice? Smells like the laws here were written by Robin Hood.

BREAKING NEWS! Dateline Ciudad Colon (July 2, 2015) Truck stolen from Gated Community

An American contractor woke yesterday morning to see his recently purchased Toyota truck missing from his locked, gated driveway. "I don't know how they got past the guardhouse, let alone broke the lock on my personal gate and somehow started the truck and drove it out past the guard. I just bought it and thought the past owner said the insurance was still good, but now I see its not. I am a condo builder here and there were six laptops full of all my work on the front seat of the truck." The truck has not been recovered. The owner says that in the future he will install a GPS tracking system and a device to remotely cut the engine.

Update: Officials have learned that a young girl cleaning the home of an American contractor while he and his wife were at work, was visited by her boyfriend who allegedly stole copies of keys used to open the owner's gate and drive off with his truck. Although the man has been identified, the whereabouts of neither he nor the truck are known.

*****************************************************************************************************************************

This contractor has worked for me.

Maybe the events that change the lives of people you know should color your decision making.

Ryan of ARCR is a friend of mine, too. I'm unaware of any reason why he was targeted for kidnapping other than he's a 'Gringo'.

A past next door neighbor who was affiliated with the CR 'Mafia' had his dogs poisoned and his fancy car stolen from his driveway. He didn't call the cops, he waited for the ransom call, paid it outside the La Sabana McD, and drove it home. When I bought my house he was the caretaker and offered me a loan of a .45 caliber pistol, "You shouldn't live here alone without protection." I didn't want to own a heavy obligation to him and declined.

This same neighbor also for some weeks secretly housed WWII war-criminal Bohdan Koziy who was wanted for extradition to Poland, Israel, the United States and Germany. Police from several countries were here looking for him. I know all this because I bought Koziy's estate in Tambor de Alajuela.

My interest was first piqued regarding this extraordinary circumstance when my neighbors told me I never needed to worry about being robbed. "Your house is haunted."

By the spirits of the hundreds of dead Jews Koziy was accused of having a part in massacring.

I sat on the back steps of a house at night that was more ruin then B&B with a beer and called for the spirits to join me. Disappointingly, they never did.

Otherwise, one would say that it's a very tranquil neighborhood.

I had been in the house for several years when after cleaning up boxes of papers and documents one New Year's Eve day, 2005 back in Ft Myers I came upon a 1985 copy of the Tico Times. I had saved it as a souvenir of my first visit to Costa Rica, here for one week. I saw a headline about a missing Nazi war criminal on p1. I turned to p2 to read the rest of the story and there was a 1/4 page photo of my house.

***************************************************************************************

Published government crime statistics reveal the 'percentage of households by canton' that suffer various forms of crime. I consider my move from the Central Valley over the mountains one that will serve me well as I approach my twilight years since the area around Puriscal is statistically the safest in the country. Many of my soon-to-be neighbors don't even have window bars. I talk to workers at the pulperias and businesses and most are proud of the 'tranquility' found in this bucolic place.

But in the next years that could change for the worse.

I'm building a house for both the present and the future and am acting on that sad possibility now. I won't wait until I am robbed, kidnapped for ransom or murdered to protect my property or life.

The measures I mentioned in this thread for the information of 'new-comers' reading this forum were to balance some of the naive, but hopeful commentary found here, not to exhibit unreasonable personal paranoia. Of course most Ticos, like people everywhere, are not dangerous. Just a few. Every apple orchard has some rotten fruit.

For those who haven't heard of or experienced bad behavior and luckily wake up and go to bed with the same smile, I'll mention these givens.

Point #1 to ponder is that it is probable that the police are not going to respond to your call in a timely fashion, assuming they even answer the phone. Assume that your personal safety is 100% your responsibility.

Point #2 is that anyone depending on an INS Hogar policy to replace stolen items hasn't read the policy.

Most kind contributors here seem to have the attitude that if things go missing in a home invasion they will simply purchase more. Fine. There are cases where the robbers literally 'back up the truck'. My funds are more limited, many items have sentimental value, so I need to have a different strategy, and mine is pro-active. It has nothing to do with paranoia, nothing scares me anymore. I perceive this threat as a challenge, another cost of living here (along with paying for the Caja). I like to 'win' challenges. Actually, the many challenges here are one of the reasons I love the place, v the vanilla life found elsewhere, although that casts doubt on my sanity with people who must use disinfecting wipes on the handles of supermarket carts at Publix.

I could live without the challenge of public buses passing me going uphill around a curve. I'll roll my own dice, thank you.

While a lot of break-in theft occurs when the home is known to be unoccupied - and why even a helpless female teenager is considered 'security'- countless break-ins involve people with guns that tie you up with duct tape. Hopefully, all readers here are aware of this.

Of course, like winning El Gordo, your personal odds of 'tasting the tape' are < 1% (the flavor is NOT like chicken).

But does this sense of reality define me as 'paranoid'?

Were you paranoid back in the States when you purchased homeowner's insurance that covered theft? Where you paranoid and fearful living somewhere only calmed knowing the police would respond in two minutes to your 911 call of 'strangers walking in the yard'?

Were you paranoid and terrified - even having neighbors suggest that you ought to consider 'living elsewhere' - because you posted an 'ADT' sign in your front yard even though you didn't even pay for ADT?

I am not going to pay a guard to sit in a little box all day by my front gate or walk the lot at night. I am not installing electrified barbed wire. I will not purchase a shotgun although I qualify. I'm not putting in a camera security system. I'm not asking someone's maid's daughter to watch TV in my sala while I go to town to shop at Super-Pali.

My goal for investing in this limited security is to influence any bad guys to pass by my house since they can't see it to know if anyone is home. My goal is to not wake up at 3am with a gun stuck in my ear. I'm sure that the foreigners I've read about in the media didn't think they would be kidnapped, robbed at gunpoint, carjacked driving back from the beach and permanently missing or murdered. "I'm nice to people!"

I'll reiterate my words from the first post to this thread.

A wall won't keep out the bad guys no matter how high or radioactive. But blocking the view of your home will create a doubt that only a really stupid burglar will ignore. A wall will keep someone from walking or driving in uninvited.

Window bars won't keep someone wanting to get into your home and steal the silverware from backing up a truck, attaching a chain and pulling them off. But they will defeat 'cockroach crime, which is the majority of offenses.

I have already installed the 'malla' in my home, which is similar to sheets of rebar used in road/sidewalk construction. It goes under the tin roof and will slow/foil the badguys from moving away from the 'difficult' window bars to pulling off the roof for entry in my absence. I have had the workers, the contractor, and Ticos who know me applaud this 'street smart' action, then tell me countless tales of themselves and others who's homes were violated through their roofs. This work cost me about $100.

Solar-powered Motion lights will light up the area and bad guys like darkness. Another $100.

A battery backup motion alarm with wireless sensors outside the homes' entry points will wake me up from my slumber so I can at least grab my machete and run at the perp, naked like a crazy man. Maybe he shoots and kills me out of utter terror. If I remember to wear my 'Go Pro' you can watch my flaming but proud demise on You-Tube some day. I bought the alarm system a few years ago for the other house for $500, but this is much less expensive now.

I forgot that I need to have a heavy metal ring sunk into the concrete garage floor to shackle down my Toyota Prada Land Cruiser (full extras :>) so it can't be hotwired and driven away the same day I take two buses (because they're fun) to SJO to shop for Chinese groceries.

BTW - When I park I use 'The Club'.

The one-time costs of these measures is small compared to the deterrence and 'sleep well at night' benefits they offer. Compare them to the annual cost of homeowner's insurance which covers theft, ADT monitoring service, and the taxes you pay for police protection in the US. So six of this and a half-dozen of the other.

Does this all work?

After 18 years I haven't had a loss. I have had one attempted and unsuccessful home invasion. So far, so good.

I will not share other personal danger 'adventures' in Costa Rica, other countries I've lived in or the USA, but I've lived my very full life mostly as a single man (scorned women are sometimes revengeful), a political activist for the environment and human rights (publicly named government agency officials and evil people that want to dig gold mines in the jungle can cause you direct harm) and have owned legitimate and 'hobby' businesses (oddly, not all customers and competing businesses will always be satisfied).

I have been targeted by more than my share of the 'slings and arrows' of outrageous fortune because I have strong convictions, offer researched opinions that I hope are not biased by stupidity, and I am not bashful about sharing the good news.

That's all fine, you pay to play and its too be expected when I'm in public. Some here will probably share their somewhat different perceptions.

But this is about home sweet home, don't invade my castle, knave.

The workers building my home have been living in their on-site shack for two months now and tell me that the streetlight at the end of my driveway attracts more than swirling bats eating bugs.

My home-to-be is located at the end of a dirt road that peters out to a cow path. Friday and Saturday nights for the last two months of construction has seen late night gatherings of jovens driving up in cars and motorcycles who smoke pot and drink. Probably benign. I'll bet a lot of them wear black clothes and even have tattoos! If I call the police they probably won't respond to this non-issue, but word will get out of my call and I'll make enemies.

If my house sat naked on the road, un-walled, un-barred, un-alarmed, and they gathered outside my sala I'd consider it a gross invasion of privacy with the potential to escalate to unknown heights. But there will be a bit of a moat. So I could ignore them, but I'd stew in my juices twice a week since I sought privacy and not midnight regaetton blasting from their cars.

What would you do?

Me being me, I already know that the first night I live there and they show up I am destined to 'meet and greet'. I love people. Maybe I'll meet a new girlfriend.

And maybe if I insist on hanging around asking questions about their lives and cars and making jokes about President Solis' economic austerity plans and tax increases while describing my fears of water shortages and coffee blights they will decide talking to this ole' Gringos not much fun and will go elsewhere.

I'll tell them I'm allergic to smoke, "If you don't mind..." Ticos are naturally respectful of the elderly.

Maybe I bring out my 'ghetto blaster' and share my favorite Mozart horn concertos (check them out!)

Pro-active.

So there you go, Bear. A lot more words.

I hope they help someone.

I wasn't kidding about the horn concertos. French horns rock.

Marsrox, you aren't that far off from me re the security you are putting in place. It's just that you make it sound a lot more dangerous to live in Costa Rica than I think it really is, based on visiting there and having friends there for 25 years - Ticos and Gringos alike.

 

You wrote:

"Am I being unduly paranoid or hysterical?" and so I gave you my answer that I think you're a bit overstating the danger which I would call "a little paranoid".

 

A "Club" type device on your steering wheel is well known to be a waste of time to any thief worth his salt. There is a very simple cheap and easy way to defeat those - showed on some "60 MInutes" type show years ago on U.S. tv - in about 15 seconds.

 

I do disagree with you that having someone - a teenager or anyone - watch your home while you're gone is better than having it empty. I do believe that MANY - though not all - robbers will be deterred by that. As you said, anyone who is INTENT on robbing you can back up a truck and break the bars, or arrive with guns, and take whatever they want. BUT I will point out that most robberies are by people who don't want to do major damage or threaten or hurt anyone, they just want the "stuff" you have.

I think that you may be over-stating the danger to one's person, the danger is much higher for your "stuff" being robbed without anyone being hurt, which is more what I will defend against. You stated somewhere in your tome that armed robberies are very common. I think statistics will show that they are actually very uncommon in Costa Rica as compared to most other countries, even the USofA.

 

All in all though I appreciate your comments and agree with you that your steps toward security are not unfounded, especially depending on where one lives.

 

I do think that communities of gringos are much more likely to be targeted than integrated communities, and especially communities where a bunch of big fancy new homes can be seen from the public road, and some obviously uninhabited (never a car there) are likely to be targeted. (I know a situation exactly like this where the homes are targeted repeatedly. And yes, they have upped their security measures now.)

 

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