After reading a letter in an online newspaper about someone whose home and car had been robbed, who had made broad generalizations about how many expats he knows who are moving back to the US and Europe “because of the lack of security or law,” I felt compelled to respond to this letter, which I think mischaracterizes Guanacaste, the Tamarindo area, and Costa Rica.

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As I read Mr. Wilkinson’s letter regarding his family’s experience in Guanacaste, I asked myself “where are they living?” The article led me to believe that it’s beachfront or near the beach in the Tamarindo area. If that is the case, his experience has been so different from ours that we seem to be talking about two different worlds.

In the almost 11 years that my husband and I have owned a home two blocks from a beach about 15 minutes from Tamarindo, we’ve NEVER had a break-in or been victims of a crime of any kind. We’ve also never had an alarm system (unless you count the 10-pound dachshund noise-maker we added to the household last year), and certainly not an armed response service.

Nothing other than a chain-link fence covered with hibiscus, an electric driveway gate and a buzzer. The latter two items are purely for convenience.

Ours is a nice community where our neighbors are primarily U.S., Canadian, Swiss and other expats, as well as part-time residents from those and other countries. I know of NO neighbors who have moved due to security problems. Most of our neighbors had their homes built two to 10 years ago and continue to live in them.

On the other hand, we bought a nice second home in an upscale San José suburb last year, which we foolishly let sit empty for three months. We arrived at the house on a Saturday, left the next morning to buy razor wire in San José for the top of a wall and had driven no more than half an hour when a policeman called my cell phone. He asked us to come home because he thought the belongings the police had found were ours.

How did the police have our cell number in a town where we knew no one and had lived less than 24 hours? They had called the previous owners in the U.S., who gave them our contact info. They had detained a man who set off a silent alarm in the house across the street before falling asleep drunk on a sofa, having left a trail of luggage and clothes from that house back to ours.

He had jumped our wall, broken a window, repacked all of our suitcases, thrown them over the wall, and entered the house where he found a liquor cabinet. He had $5K+ of our belongings in his possession, had clearly broken into two homes, and had a police record. They held him in jail for four months until his trial.

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We cooperated, provided an inventory, receipts, signed the paperwork charging him, and agreed to give a deposition or testify at trial. At least twice in four months, the prosecutor called to follow up with my husband, who was prepared to give a deposition, but the defendant pleaded guilty before trial and was sentenced to 6 years, 8 months prison time.

We’ve never experienced any type of crime at the beach in 10+ years, but one day after moving into a house in a San José suburb, we had a break-in, However, who could have asked for police officers and a justice system anywhere to have done more?

Catch the guy, track us down, hold our belongings at the house until we arrive, return everything to us the next day, hold the criminal, charge him, build a case, eventually get a confession without costing Costa Rica for a trial, and sentence him to more than six years in prison.

When I lived in the U.S., my home there was robbed and vandalized three times during an eight-month period before the thieves were finally caught, though no thanks to the police.

Every time I cleaned up the mess, had the carpets cleaned or replaced, the walls repainted, and purchased new TV’s, appliances, and electronics, the same group of young adults came back to shop at my house for brand new things to sell, pawn or trade for drugs, as it turned out.

After the second robbery, when the police were unsuccessful in obtaining any leads, I had someone watch the house when I was out of town, which was when the thieves had previously struck.

After only a few nights, they were spotted in the house, the police called and their crime spree at my house ended. But, only one of the five thieves went to jail. The other four were either minors, didn’t have a sufficiently serious police record, or for whatever reason received probation or suspended sentences.

I lost so many things that had sentimental value and were irreplaceable, but more importantly I lost peace of mind; I never felt safe living there afterward and soon sold the house.

We bought a house here in 1999 because we loved to vacation here and thought we might someday retire to this country, where the weather and lifestyle, the friendly people all made us smile when we visited a couple of months a year.

We saw potential here for a simpler happy, less stressful life, never dreaming that Costa Rica would blossom the way it has. We made Costa Rica our full-time home, however, because issues in the U.S. with safety, security and the economy reached a tipping point, and outweighed the positives. It was the right move and we’ve never looked back.

Written by VIP Member Shirley Osman who had been living in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. Shirley Osman passed away in her sleep on 15th April 2013 while on a family visit in the U.S.

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Crime in Costa Rica – No trouble in Tamarindo during 11 years living

Article/Property ID Number 2535

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