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We were victims of a professional, well-planned home invasion. It is everyone’s worst fear of any crime because it happens in your home while you are there.
The criminals were in our home for over an hour looking for a safe and money that was not there.
This is not a how-to story of security precautions. The home invasion we experienced belongs in the category of things you cannot do anything about.
While we were restrained and guarded in our home that night, we listened to how quickly all the elaborate “fortifications” that our neighbor had installed were overcome.
For whatever reason, multiple dogs were quiet.
For gun people, a pistol on my hip would have done me no good. We know how to use firearms. The objective of the thieves is to raid a home where they believe the best payout will be. Their Intel and planning are based on tips or personal observations.
For the thieves, a home invasion is a dangerous endeavor, and they must make the assault worth their while. For them, it is preparation, risk, and reward. We believe in Costa Rica, for the most part, these criminals are not rattling doorknobs and looking for an easy hit.
The intent of this article is about self-reflection, culture, and the place to minimize your risk and avoid these situations. It is not the “They see our big houses and think we all have money” myth. It is an assault based on you personally to get to the cash they believe you have.
If you are reading this, it is because you chose to live here, or are considering living here, our dream of living here.
In most home invasions in the area, there have been large amounts of cash (purchase of vehicles, bringing cash here to avoid wire fees, taxes, etc.) or interaction with questionable females. There usually is a valid reason for the target in the criminal’s mind.
Having large amounts of cash in your home or on your person puts you and others around you at risk. There are banks here and in the U.S. Learn how to pay online. Use credit cards; most places accept them. This is a very small country, and word gets around.
Over the Top?
Take a survey of your surroundings here. Is your house or planned house and amenities over the top? Does it say, “look at me and how much I have?” Although that may be fine in Miami or Los Angles and draws the envy of people, we think it draws something different in Costa Rica.
That is not to say that you can’t have a nice North American-style home, but is pure opulence the point of living here? This behavior can put everyone in the area at risk. How self-actualized are you? If you need to prove your wealth and success to the world, reconsider living here. A Rolex watch on your wrist is not there to tell time. The culture is not like that here.
Think about you and how you appear to your new neighbors. Do you try and speak Spanish? Does your body language give off arrogance? Do you smile and greet people? North American and European behavior sometimes does not mesh well in Latin countries. Are you here to get the best deal? Pay cash for big discounts? Work hard to get the price down using your tough tactics back home? Think about how that looks from a local’s perspective. “Here is a guy with all this money, and he wants me to make less profit on this so he can keep more for himself?”
In closing, we would like to say we feel safe in our home, surroundings, and our adopted country. The home invasion that happened to us was unfortunate but happens everywhere. Crime and violence exist. The targets are usually objectives for specific reasons, not because they are “foreigners.”
We believe these criminals don’t risk punishment or their lives based on stereotypes or random selections. They figure the probability of reward based on information and observation. We all must understand this.
Fear is contagious; don’t spread it.
Chris V., the author, prefers to stay anonymous for obvious reasons. We did not edit this article and published it as written by Chris.
The grammar of the Spanish version of this blog was checked and corrected by Wagner Freer of the Spanish School for Residents and Expats. We strongly recommend this language school as your best choice to learn Spanish; click here to contact them.