Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Costa Rica: US Businessman Robbed, Shot on Pacific Coast

According to The Yuma Sun, Gary Lee, owner of Yuma, AZ-based Commercial Broker and Princess Travel, was shot and robbed at approximately 0300 hours on June 22 at his vacation home in Puntarenas province, which extends along the country's Pacific coast.

Reportedly, Mr. Lee was unaware of the home invasion until the assailants came into his upstairs bedroom and began assaulting him. When Lee attempted to defend himself, he was shot in the right thigh, severing his femur bone. 

The fact that Lee knew of the burglars' presence in his home only when they entered his bedroom, suggests that the vacation home was not well-secured in terms of lighting, exterior door and window security, an armed guard, a central station alarm, the presence of an indoor dog or other physical, procedural or technical deterrents. 

According to the victim, the perpetrators subsequently escaped with unspecified cash, credit cards and mobile phones.

COMMENT: There are several lessons to be learned from this incident:

1. In the YUMA SUN piece that described Lee's victimization in Costa Rica, the American was quoted as being highly critical of local police, alleging corruption on their part, not to mention they're being ineffective to crime victims.

Generally speaking, when you're dependent entirely on local police and have not proactively fortified your home to counter rising violent crime in Costa Rica, it is probably unwise to publicly criticize the police, as foreigners must depend on them for help;

2. Frequent violent crime has been on the rise since the mid-90s and has even worsened in recent years, particularly where foreigners live and congregate;

3. It is unknown as to how often Mr. Lee visited Costa Rica and used his vacation home, yet unless he had little social contact with neighbors or acquaintances, he should have known that other expats were being victimized, robbed, burglarized and injured by local criminals;

4. Cash that had not been stolen by the burglars was subsequently stolen by the police who responded to his home, Lee alleges. Again, if you've done nothing to secure your home, getting along with local police, building rapport with them and cultivating relationships with the police would be a wise move;

5. Although the US Department of State has been very reluctant to issue travel warnings on Costa Rica, the reality is that 19 US citizens have been murdered in Costa Rica since January 2011 with few arrests, let alone convictions;

6. Additionally, 24 US citizens have been sexually assaulted or raped since 2011, according to the US Embassy;

7. According to THE YUMA SUN, Lee told the publication that as a result of the home invasion, he would never return to Costa Rica and would caution others in Yuma on his experience;

Unfortunately, Mr. Lee was robbed and shot largely because he failed to proactively conduct a professional vulnerability assessment on his home. Had he implemented any of the security deterrents I described earlier in this report, he very likely would never have had a home invasion; and

Even if he had had an indoor dog, the animal would have alerted him to the burglars outside, giving him time to respond with lethal force if he had a firearm at the ready. If he didn't, he should have, since he was in an isolated area known for frequent residential crime.