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Thursday, June 7, 2007



After the tragic situation in Kansas with the abduction and murder of Kelsey Smith, I got to thinking about the increasing incidence of similar situations in the US where we rely so much upon high tech security cameras to monitor stores, shopping malls, parking lots, etc. Although such security devices have their place, most of the time these are useful after a crime has been committed and not during.

As post investigative techniques security devices most of the time cameras provide a record of what has occurred. Analysis oif the data from these devices frequently allow police to solve crimes, but they do very little to prevent crimes except perhaps if they deter crimes when potential criminals know such devices are there. There are many criminals who are either stupid or willing to take their chances anyway.

Since many of my readers know I now live in Panama, I frequently compare what goes on in the US with what happens in Panama. The US could learn much from what we do here in Panama. One of the situations which some individuals who visit me from the US observe is that police and security guards are everywhere. Some are unnerved by this. But I respond by saying that Panama is a safe place to live, and crime is very low, and, since I am not a criminal, why should they bother me?

First, there are private security guards at the entrance of almost every store, bank, and place of business. They frequently open the door of the store or bank for you and are quite friendly. In the evening, if you are entering some stores such as pharmacies, they only allow one or two people to enter the store at one time. When one person exits, another is let in.

Second, there is the Transito Police who frequently direct traffic. What they do is quite similar to what happens in the US. It is almost impossible to go out on the street and look up and down and not see at least one or two or more police. When the Transito Police direct traffic at an intersection, it becomes such a confusing event. I can understand it is important to have someone direct traffic when the lights are not functioning, but when the lights are working?

Third, there are also what might best be described as State Police who go up and down streets usually in pairs on motor scooters. One of the pair usually carries an automatic rifle. This police force is rather unobtrusive. They are just there and I have never felt threatened by their presence.

Fourth, there is a special police force which guards the Presidential entourage. Many of them can be seen in Casca Viejo (Old Panama) where the Presidential Palace (Heron Palace) is.

Each of the above described are clearly identified by their uniforms.

The situation I wish to discuss is the importance of having some form of guard or police force monitor parking lots in addition to having security guards at the entrance of stores. If the store is small with a small adjoining parking lot, the entrance guard could easily observe what occurs in the parking area.

If the store is large or, if it is a larger mall, there could be some guard or police force driving around, perhaps on scooters or cars, observing what goes on in the parking lots. With such a presence, potential criminals might be reluctant to commit crimes.

It is tragic to admit that frequently it is not safe to be in public areas even in the daylight. But, sorry to say that it appears to be a problem of our times. As I was growing up in the US I never would have thought there would be so many crazies roaming the streets. I have a solution to the problem but it is so massive that I do not believe it could ever be implemented. Society is becoming so complex and we enjoy so many freedoms that individuals would never agree to what might be obvious solutions.

nicola michael Tauraso, M.D.


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