A Tale of Two Famous City Regions: Part 3

A Tale of Two Famous City Regions: Part 3

This is my Part 3 serial comparison of the “quality of life” in the Greater Ottawa/Hull Region including satellite towns such as Kanata and Orleans with the Greater Panama City Region (including Coronado). Both regions contain somewhat more than one million residents and there is typically a 60 minute drive to the “center”.

The basis for this rather atypical comparison is as follows:

  • Coronado, Panama has been rated as “the best place in the world” to live/retire for North American and European “expats” by many well-known international web sites and news media.
  • Ottawa is frequently rated as having the highest “quality of life” for any city in the world see http://www.numbeo.com/quality-of-life/rankings.jsp and various international agencies.
  • A very high percentage of expats living/visiting Coronado happen to be Canadians.
  • Having lived permanently in Coronado since 2005, and having lived/worked in Ottawa for about 20 years, I could be considered a relative expert for this comparison.

The main components of a typical “Quality of Life Index” are as follows:

  1. Your Purchasing Power
  2. The Consumer Price Index
  3. Your Property Price to Income Index
  4. The Quality/Cost of Health Care
  5. Your Safety/Crime Index
  6. Your Traffic Commute Time
  7. The Pollution Index

My first two postings addressed the first four indicators for “quality of life” which are primarily (but not entirely) economic and financial in nature including “health care”.

But what about crime and personal safety?

Crime and personal safety are a major consideration for anyone living anywhere.

For comparison purposes, crime rates are always measured as the number of events per 100,000 people. The main crime categories are “homicides”, “crimes against the person” (assaults, muggings, rape, kidnappings, armed robbery etc) , and “crimes against property” (primarily theft without the victim being present).

Homicides and Panamanian “Red Zones”

The homicide rate per 100,000 people in the Republic of Panama has varied between 18 to 20 in recent years. In the Ottawa/Hull area it is less than 2. The Republic of Panama rate, however, includes homicides in distant Colon (on the Atlantic side) accounting almost 30% of all homicides which if excluded would reduce this number to about 12-13.

The great majority of homicides in Panama occur in well-known “red zones” (Colon is a Red Zone). There are perhaps 5 or 6 well designated “red zones” in Panama City. The typical victim of a homicide in Panama is male, between the ages of 16 and 28, engaged in some indictable activity, and spending time in a “red zone” between the hours of 8 PM and 2 PM. Most sensible people stay out of designated “red zones” at night. There are also “higher risk” areas in the Ottawa/Hull area.

On an anecdotal basis, I asked a Canadian friend (who has owned property in Panama since 2006) his opinion concerning the number of “expats” who have become a “homicide statistic” since 2006. His “ballpark estimate”, which coincides closely with my own thinking, is that there have been approximately 12 expat homicides in the past 8 years. Considering that there are approximately 100,000 expats in all of Panama, this would work out to about 1.5 expat homicides per 100,000 per year which is basically identical to the Ottawa/Hull homicide rate.

There is an excellent web site by Don Winner which focuses on expat crimes in Panama as a resource. My friend was quick to note, without any prompting, that ‘lifestyle” might account for a significant portion of these expat homicides. Some expats think of Panama as the “wild west” and lead a “cowboy” lifestyle. This approach can get you into serious trouble almost anywhere and particularly in Panama.

“Crimes against the Person” is the most important category by far

Given that one is able to control the impulse to visit a “red zone” at night (wearing gold jewelry, flashing a wad of bills and slightly inebriated), “crimes against the person” are by far the most important crime category to analyze.

“Crimes against the person” include “attempted murder”, rape, assault, armed robbery, kidnapping etc. The definition of these crimes is about the same in both countries.
In Ottawa there were 542 such “crimes against the person” per 100,000 people in 2012.

In the same year 2012, in the Ottawa Region, “crimes against property” (e.g. theft) were 2925 per 100,000.

The official report from Ottawa for 2012 (excluding Gatineau/Hull) can be verified at:  http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCkQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fottawapolice.ca%2FLibraries%2FPublications%2F2012-2011CrimeStats_City_of_Ottawa_data.sflb.ashx&ei=KO0iU9CtE8T5kQeCn4HYAQ&usg=AFQjCNHNk-XpSavmnru0_YGOJ_h9JJ9h3g&sig2=TOu384G_Kcy3b1fg13dK-A&bvm=bv.62922401,d.eW0.

All Statistics are simply Lies, Lies and more Lies

A famous man once said everyone has the right to his own opinion but not to his own facts.
For those people who believe that crime statistics are “lies, lies and more lies” used by inept governments to hide inefficiencies and/or to promote tourism, one should note that both Canada and the USA publicly state that only about 50% of all “crimes against the person” and “against property” are reported. The same is true for Panama. This error rate is obviously not the case with homicide statistics as you have to somehow account for the body!.

Panama crime statistics remain more difficult to analyze because there is no official police report that can be easily downloaded like the one in Ottawa and certainly not a report for the Coronado/Panama City area exclusively. Continued research will be conducted and any ideas would be appreciated. I will endeavor to interview the local Chief of Police on this matter.

One well established web site www.nationmaster.com, using statistics generated from internationally recognized agencies including the UN, provides a reasonable comparative report on “total crimes” for Canada and Panama. But it is rather dated.

The population of Canada is 10 times larger than Panama (35 million to 3.5 million). NationMaster reports that the number of “total crimes” in Panama was 21,058 during the same year that “total crimes” in Canada were 2,520,000. Considering that the Canadian statistics are reasonably accurate, one would have assumed that Panama would have about 250,000 “crimes” (based on population size) rather than only 21,058. These statistics are quite old so they are only “indicative” at best. More research is needed.

Another report “Crime and Punishment around the World: [Four Volumes] edited by Graeme R. Newman” notes that for 2006 the following statistics were available in Panama per 100,000 population: auto theft (19) drugs (86), major theft (545), robbery (38), rape (24), and major assault (36). The only problem is that these crimes are not categorized as “crimes against the person” as opposed to “crimes against property”. Lumping all crimes together Panama had a rate per thousand that is only 25% that of Ottawa (about 700 rather than 3000).

Without having more first class statistics available, my view continues to be that “crimes against the person” per 100,000 in the Coronado/Panama City region remain substantially lower than in the Ottawa/Hull area. I will looking for more “official” data including anecdotal evidence of this view and reporting back to you.

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