Home Costa Rica Forum Costa Rica Guide Costa Rica Resources Real Estate Healthcare in Costa Rica
Costa Rica
Resources
City Guides
Cigna International Health Insurance
Join Sign In
AGS Worldwide Movers

Staying Safe in Costa Rica

By Alley Cat

Summary: Recent crimes in Costa Rica have involved robbers arriving at homes and impersonating police officers. Alley Cat offers great advice and detailed information about what you need to know when the police are at your door.

Expat Costa Rica - Staying Safe in Costa Rica

A number of months ago an incident occurred involving a private home that was approached by several police officers arriving in a truck. They presented the owner with an official looking sheet of paper and claimed that they had been sent to search the premise. The owner obliged and opened the main gate and what resulted was a nightmare. The men entered the home and then proceeded to threaten the people within. Within minutes, they had tied everyone up and began stealing everything of value. If anyone had been watching from a neighboring house, they would have thought that everything was normal. The police had been allowed to enter and after the gate had closed nobody could see the men loading up the truck nor could they imagine the distress of the inhabitants.

This type of scenario is all too frequent these days. What should one be aware of if faced with a similar situation? What are your rights? What are the rights of law enforcement regarding yourself and your property? And finally, what do you need to know to prevent a situation like this from happening to you and your place of business or family home?

First of all, it is important to understand the different divisions of police here in Costa Rica as well as their roles and rights. There are 2 basic divisions when it comes to law enforcement. The first division is Administrative Law Enforcement and the second is Local Law Enforcement. Administrative law enforcement deals with cases that can be a danger on a national level. They do not wear uniforms and are plain clothed. This sector includes the OIJ (Judicial Investigation Organization), the PCD (Drug Control Police), and Immigration Police. The most common on a public level are the OIJ and the PCD. These squads are not the ones that will be politely knocking at your door requesting entrance. The OIJ is sent out to rescue kidnap victims, find wanted felons and negotiate hostage situations. When they or the DITA are sent to an address it is so they can take the location by surprise and force.

The second division of law enforcement includes The Fuerza Publica and other units like Frontier Police, Touristic Police and Transit Police to name the most common. They are uniformed with their unit clearly marked on the breast and their vehicle. These units are an aid to the administrative units. They deal with everyday law enforcement and petty crimes.

It is important to understand that if an officer with a notice or summons arrives at your door he will most often come alone (maximum two officers), usually on a motorbike clearly marked as a police vehicle and will present you with two copies: an original for you to keep and a copy for you to sigh that he will keep. They will not come by truck. They only deliver between the hours of 8am and 5pm. If a police officer comes to your place of business or home, make sure that you keep these points in mind. Always ask why he is there and what the delivery pertains to. If it seems improbable or suspicious take that as a warning sign. Remember that you have two options within your rights when in this situation. The first is to ask the officer to slip the paper under the door or drop it to the ground and back away until you can read and sign the paper, the second is to ask the officer which police station he represents, and to tell him that you will personally go to the station to sign the documents and that you will not open the door.

Also remember that if an officer comes to your door and asks to enter the premise you have every right to deny entry unless he has an official warrant to see your property and is accompanied by a functionary (called a fiscal in Spanish)whose job it is to remain impartial and be a witness to the police investigation . Even if he presents you with documents, don't just open the door. It is important to always:

  • Call the nearest Fuerza Publica station to confirm the situation. It is always up to the office nearest to you to dispatch any officers within their area of command. It is important to have the number to the station at hand (posted on the fridge for example).When you call ask if the station is aware that officers are at your address and try to give them information such as full names and badge numbers. If the station did not send the officers, ask them to send someone over right away and then remain indoors until the authorities arrive.
  • Call your lawyer. Explain the situation and ask him to come over right away. If the situation is legitimate, you have the right to explain to the police that you will not open the door until your lawyer arrives. Your lawyer will act as a witness should something not be done to code and will also be able to counsel you on your rights. If you do not know the number to the local Police station, or do not speak Spanish, you can call 911 and explain the situation to an English speaking representative. They will be able to contact your nearest police office and confirm or deny the dispatch.
  • If you find out that the officers at your door are false, call family members, employees or anyone else that should be on their way to your location and tell them not to come over until further notice. You don't want to put anyone in danger if things get physical when the authorities confront the suspects. Also you don't want anyone to become a potential hostage or target for the suspects.

These safety procedures also apply to anybody that comes to your door unsolicited. You always want to call the company office they claim to represent and confirm the situation. Do not ask the person at the door for the number if you don't have it available. Better to call 1113 and ask the ICE representative to give you the number you need. You don't want to be calling the suspects friends to confirm his identity. If things are not right, call 911 immediately.

Lastly it is important to do full background check on any and all employees that work for you. These types or robberies are almost always inside jobs. The suspects need to know how many people are at the location and what is of value inside before they begin setting up a plan to rob you. They do not just pick random homes or businesses to stop at.

Even when a program like DATUM does a background check on your employees you can't be too sure. DATUM only gives you information that is registered nationally. If for example a person is a rapist but has never been caught, the information will not appear on DATUM. It is always better for your safety to use a reputable security company to do a thorough check of not only the person in question but also his family members. Knowing what kind of friends a person has, and where they are frequenting can often give you all the information you need. You also don't want to be hiring someone who's brother or cousin runs with a gang or has been arrested for theft in the past. A good security company will be able to provide you with that information.

Join our Costa Rica Expat Forum

Visit our Costa Rica Forum and talk with other expats who can offer you insight and tips about living in Costa Rica.

Read Next

Healthcare in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is has both public and private healthcare systems. When you become a resident, you must enroll in the public healthcare system (CAJA). Many expats use the public system for routine healthcare and have private expat health insurance for specialists, surgeries and emergencies.

10 Tips for Living in Costa Rica

Expats in Costa Rica love the Pura Vita vibe, Costa Rican's focus of family and friendship and being surrounded by nature. Can you live in Costa Rica on $1,000 a month? Is driving in Costa Rica dangerous? Expats share their tips and experiences living in Costa Rica.

Banking in Costa Rica

Information for expats living in Costa Rica about banking in Costa Rica, wire transfers, banking fees, banking limitations for those on a tourist visa and more.

Cost of Living in Costa Rica

If you're moving to Costa Rica, you'll want to understand the cost of living in Costa Rica. Lifestyle, location and health insurance are part of the formula. Expats talk about real estate prices, rents, international school tuition, travel expenses and the fun stuff - travel, dining out and more.

Expats in Costa Rica: Pros and Cons of Living in Costa Rica

Expats in Costa Rica offer some advice on the pros and cons of living in the Central American country. Topics covered include the health care system, where to live, and also some general information about the natural beauty of Costa Rica.

About the Author

Alley Cat describes herself as, "a world crunching; fact munching, face slapping, truth unveiling bite your lip 'cause it's gonna hurt kinda gal. Been there...saw that...conquered....left my mark!!!!"

AGS Worldwide Movers

Write a Comment about this Article

Sign In to post a comment.

First Published: Sep 10, 2014

Expatriate Health Insurance

Get a quote for expat health insurance in Costa Rica from our partner, Cigna Global Health.
Get a Quote

Culture-Shock-in-Playa-Jaco-An Expat Talks about Culture Shock & Living in Playa Jaco , Costa Rica

An expat living in Playa Jaco, Costa Rica enjoys the family-focused Costa Rican culture and the slower pace of life. She has great tips to help newcomers adapt to life in Costa Rica.

An expat living in Playa Jaco, Costa Rica enjoys the family-focused Costa Rican culture and the slower pace of life. She has great tips to help newcomers adapt to life in Costa Rica....

Living-in-MontezumaAn Expat Discusses Living in Montezuma, Costa Rica

An expat in Montezuma, Costa Rica talks about learning to live more simply, let go of material things and enjoy the fresh air, sunshine and life. But, you'll also have to adjust to living without Starbucks, driving on very bumpy roads, lots of insects and rainy season.

An expat in Montezuma, Costa Rica talks about learning to live more simply, let go of material things and enjoy the fresh air, sunshine and life. But, you'll also have to adjust to living without Sta...

Healthcare in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is has both public and private healthcare systems. When you become a resident, you must enroll in the public healthcare system (CAJA). Many expats use the public system for routine healthcare and have private expat health insurance for specialists, surgeries and emergencies.

Costa Rica is has both public and private healthcare systems. When you become a resident, you must enroll in the public healthcare system (CAJA). Many expats use the public system for routine health...

10 Tips for Living in Costa Rica

Expats in Costa Rica love the Pura Vita vibe, Costa Rican's focus of family and friendship and being surrounded by nature. Can you live in Costa Rica on $1,000 a month? Is driving in Costa Rica dangerous? Expats share their tips and experiences living in Costa Rica.

Expats in Costa Rica love the Pura Vita vibe, Costa Rican's focus of family and friendship and being surrounded by nature. Can you live in Costa Rica on $1,000 a month? Is driving in Costa Rica da...

10 Expats Talk About What It's Like Living in Costa Rica

Expats living in Costa Rica talk about Pura Vida, deciding where to live in Costa Rica, meeting people and more.
Expats living in Costa Rica talk about Pura Vida, deciding where to live in Costa Rica, meeting people and more....

Top 5 Reasons Expats Move to Central America

From lower cost of living to affordable healthcare and beachfront living, expats discuss the top reasons they moved to Central America.
From lower cost of living to affordable healthcare and beachfront living, expats discuss the top reasons they moved to Central America....

Belize Guide
Other Links
Our Story Our Team Contact Us Submit an Article Advertising Travel Warnings

Copyright 1997-2019 Burlingame Interactive, Inc.

Privacy Policy Legal