For Expats Living in Mexico and Central America, Safety Is Not a Big Concern

The thought of living in certain places in Mexico or Central America can be alluring: fabulous beaches, colonial cities, inexpensive, quality healthcare, a slower pace and much lower cost of living.

But some people think mistakenly that it isn't safe.

To determine how safe it is for expats in places like Panama, Nicaragua, Belize and Mexico, Best Places In The World to Retire asked some of its more than 500 contributors to weigh in. They said that petty crime can be a problem, although that's no different than in the U.S. They also said that more serious crime is not nearly as rampant as the media indicates, although it's important to avoid certain areas. That's also no different than in the U.S. Overall, the expats said that they felt safe in their communities.

Here are some of the issues on which the expats commented:

Property Crime vs. Violent Crime

The expat contributors divided the subject into two categories: crimes against property, such as having a camera, smartphone or other possession stolen, and crimes against a person, including violent crimes, like assault, rape or murder

The majority of expats said that crimes against property are somewhat higher where they live in Latin America than in similar-type locations and situations in North America. However, by about the same margin, most expats said that crimes against people were less likely where they lived in Latin America than in North America, especially in the U.S.

Audrey Royem, formerly from Colorado and now living in Sayulita, a town close to Puerto Vallarta in Mexico said that most of the crimes in her area were smaller scale or robberies that could possible have been avoided with more vigilance. "The crime that you see here is usually petty theft; house robberies where there's lack of protection or a tourist who leaves the house totally open and all of their valuables out," Royern said. "We do not really hear of any other type of crime, even the type of crimes that we're used to in the States, such as rapes or drug-related crimes."

Janice Gallagher, who moved from Dallas to Granada, Nicaragua more than a decade ago, said that most crime in the country was the type of petty crime that could "be avoided by thinking smart."

Gallagher said that, "Granada does not have drive by shootings or gang violence. Child kidnappings are nonexistent. All the horrible things I see while watching the news from the United States just don't happen here."

Many expats said that petty theft happens in the U.S., as well. Leave an expensive smart phone on a big city park bench in the U.S., and it's unlikely to still be there an hour later. 

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