Panama City, Panama – Robbery at police parking lot

We have to be at 10 a.m. at the police station to get our number plate and VIN number checked, what is necessary for exporting the vehicle by ship from Panama. Afterwards Interpol allegedly checks if the vehicle was involved in any criminal act in Central America. We will receive the result respectively the export permit in the afternoon. One of the officers insists for an unknown reason that we park in the end of the lot – later on this won’t be without consequences. Because here is a passage to the road behind the parking where on the opposite side one of Panama’s very bad slum areas begin. At any time after 10 o’clock the officers of start to inspect the vehicles, ours is the last one. It doesn’t take long time, and I already want to get into our truck.

That’s why I don’t pay full attention to my surroundings and I don’t notice two Afro-Americans approaching me rapidly. Suddenly one of them tugs at my purse and tries to snatch it away. Idiot! That doesn’t work, the bag is tightly attached to me and has one strap across my body and another around my hip. He would have to take me as well, but for sure that’s not in his plan. I found this special “handbag” in an army surplus store in the States. If the thief had paid attention he could have seen at least the diagonal strap so he would have known that’s impossible to just pull away the bag. Even cutting the straps is difficult since they are made from very stable Cordura – and it’s two.

Everything happens very fast: Joerg shoves away the second attacker and throws himself between the first one and me. After the first moment of shock is gone we begin to counterattack and turn the tables. We try to catch the unsuccessful purse robbers, roar loudly and pursue them. The two fellows bellow as well, now by fear, and run off like rabbits. They are smart and split up. Joerg is fast, but he chooses the wrong one who’s faster. The other one falls over a parked car and falls onto the street. But I am too slow with my nice sandals that I specially took for the police visit (they are very particular regarding clothes). Both young men disappear in a pathway opposite of the entrance to the police parking lot. We don’t intend to follow them into the slums! Well, at least we gave them a fright.

But what about the officers who checked the cars and stand only meters away on the parking lot? Quite a while after we returned to Arminius, they stroll along really calmly. They waited long enough to make sure not to be involved. They ask us uninterestedly what happened. Then they order us to leave immediately, because this wasn’t a safe place. Ah? A: We just WANTED to leave and B: why am I forced to come to a site that’s not safe? There’s no answer, of course. In view of the fact that the robbery took place in broad daylight in the parking lot of the National Police and the officers had an amazing knack of not being involved into the occurrence, there is a legal question: Does the police collaborate with the bad boys? Hard to say, but a least there must be a certain tolerance to occurrences of this kind, otherwise they would have reacted faster. Of course it is always awkward to have a purse but for the police visit we needed passports and some other papers what makes a bag somehow necessary. In any case this is a warning for other travellers to park in this lot in the very beginning whatever the police say, to keep the doors locked and to safeguard valuables.

At half past two we have to be in another police station, the Secretaría General, on the opposite side of the place of crime. Men have to wear long pants and closed shoes to enter the office (ladies should be well-groomed, can wear a skirt, and nice sandals are o.k.). The strictly looking lady is known for being able to delay the procedure, but today is Friday, she wants to go home at three o’clock, and so she works speedily. We receive the necessary confirmation that we aren’t villains and that we are allowed to export the vehicle within eight days.

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