By Ivo Henfling
You might say that I come up with these crazy topics, but I can assure you they’re not as crazy as you might think. I am talking about the well known Bougainvillea, a beautiful plant with different flowers and spines, but later about that. Lets talk first about security. When you read websites from Costa Rica realtors, you will almost always see phrases like “gated communities”, “condominiums”, “secured access” and other things that show that it is important to take notice that you should live in a secure community but nobody tells you why.
Today, I will tell you all about it because I think the taboo of talking about the security issues that Costa Rica is going through, is totally ridiculous. People should know what they can expect when they want to move to Costa Rica.
Costa Rica has a very good Social Security system, which you will all be obliged to pay into, if you want to become a resident in Costa Rica. When you get sick, the government will pay you 80% of the average of the income you reported, averaged over the last year.
What we do NOT have here is welfare. So when the locals lose their job for some reason, they’re on their own. No matter how much family they have to feed, no job in Costa Rica means no income at all. So yes, one of the few real problems we have here is security, we DO have burglaries here.
This fact, the fact that Costarican society does not really see that stealing is something you should get the electric chair for, and for anything under a value of less than $150, they police will not even bother and the fact that every poor Costarican thinks we gringos are all millionaires, creates petty thievery. Most will try to get into your house the moment the house is alone. Very few will do so when you’re at home. Also, drug addicted find easy ways into homes to grab the electronics they can to go sell them for next to nothing in the San José pawnshops.
If you read police reports from the US and other countries, like I showed in a blog about a home invasion in Atenas, you’ll find it is not really much different anywhere else, but it doesn’t get in the newspapers anymore like it does here, so you won’t hear about it. Costa Rica doesn’t have much money to get their police force together, nor do they have the laws of a first world country to protect you and your property. Most retirees do not pay taxes here either, except for the sales tax they pay on consumer goods, so that doesn’t help.
Most Costaricans build first the bars around their property before they even build the house and then fill it up with razor wire to make it look like a prison. To them, it’s a competition of who can make his house look like the safest in the neighborhood.
Colorful bougainvillea bushes supply more security to your property. These plants are thorny, woody vines growing anywhere from 1-12 meters tall, scrambling over other plants with their spiky thorns. The thorns are tipped with a black, waxy substance. They are evergreen where rainfall occurs all year, or deciduous if there is a dry season. The leaves are alternate, simple ovate-acuminate, 4-13 cm long and 2-6 cm broad. The actual flower of the plant is small and generally white, but each cluster of three flowers is surrounded by three or six bracts with the bright colors associated with the plant, including pink, magenta, purple, red, orange, white, or yellow. These plants are perfect alarm systems as these thorns really hurt when you try to get through them.
And that’s what I mean with the title of this article, you can use the bougainvillea to protect your property. It takes a couple of years to grow but the spines are sharp and will stop most “normal” thieves from jumping your fence and it looks beautiful too during most of the year. Or you make sure you buy a property in Costa Rica in a condominium or gated community. Having good security is a cost of living in Costa Rica, so better get used to it.
Ivo Henfling, your secure real estate agent in Costa Rica.