Just a quick thanks to my followers, my site hit a gigantic 1900 hits yesterday, that is just one day! After only a short time in existence I thought that was pretty whizzy, so thanks!!
I read a lot of scary articles about crime in Panama before I came and I still see conflicting articles on the net. Some saying it is almost non existent, and others saying be careful for your life! It's difficult to know what to believe before one visits and even after having lived here for some time, it is hard to tell.
Here is the reality as I have experienced it living among the locals in the City of Panama. I have never seen a violent crime committed. I have never spoken to anyone who has seen or experienced a violent crime. I hear stories about a friend of a friend who got robbed, or was drunk at 3 am and a cabbie robbed him. I have heard a story that in the wrong area of the city you can be car jacked. So, like any large city, poverty, drug addiction etc. exist and I'm sure, in the city, things like this can happen. But I contend that it doesn't happen often at all.
Now that's the city. The stories from the locals are very different when one leaves the city for the beaches, interior, and rural areas. In fact it's difficult, and i have never found a story of negative criminal behavior outside of the city other than the odd case of vandalism or petty theft. The people of Panama live a peaceful and very family oriented life. Their religious beliefs are strong and they feel safe to leave their homes in the evenings and have a good time, whether it be with family, or with friends, at a disco, or just sitting in the yard having drinks and visiting with neighbors and passers-by. It's awesome!
The bottom line is that Panama is very very safe. When in the city, stay away from the "dark alleys", just like in any other city in the world, but the rest of the country is safe, friendly, and free to completely explore.