Truth Be Told About Crime in San Pedro and I Was a Bad Girl

by tacogirl
Crime in San Pedro Belize

It’s the low season and recent news, in general, has people wondering about safety and crime in Belize and specifically in San Pedro town, on the popular traveler destination Ambergris Caye.

This topic has been on my mind again (and in post-drafts) for a while now. I have been covering the issue of crime for years. Sadly as you will see in the first link below, my articles were often inspired by unfortunate events that happened to me, and crime tips that came from someone snooping in a friends yard and the sizeable telltale sign they left. 

As for today’s piece, I started writing it in December 2018 in prep for low season and is based on a personal experience that had me, once again shaking my head and smiling. When you live in a small tropical island [40 miles (24 km) x 2 miles (3.2 km)] sometimes smiling is your best option when life throws you a crazy @ss curveball.

My View on Crime in San Pedro Belize

I was more scared of the bang bang bang of the guy(s) fixing the locks at my downtown apartment building than I was laying in bed at night listening to a round of gunshots years back when I lived southwest of town. The shots were close enough to rattle my San Pablo area neighbor’s windows. Of course, it was a bit alarming, however, I was safe in my upper duplex apartment, out looking for trouble or making my way home topsy turvy and alone late at night.

As for the lock, what scares me about construction and routine maintenance here is that often the guys seem to think they can do shoddy work and that just because I am a girl, I do not know how things work. In reality, I did a good stint of renovations in my other life so I do know bits from first-hand experience. Little did I know when I started writing this that it would not be till mid-low season when I was finishing my write up that I would finally get approval for my lock guy to properly fix the door.

I do know that a proper locksmith would not be trying to bang the faceplate of the lock to make it fit better somehow magically. Nor would they try and pass off badly working inside mechanics and a door that would not shut properly as a job well done. I mean full out clunky, wondering if it will close or fall apart in the process. That does did not bode well for feeling safe. Thankfully the locksmith was able to reassemble it properly and add a missing screw. Now my front door lock works great. I feel much safer and so grateful I can stop explaining how to close the door when friends come by.

taco Tip 21

If you ever have lock troubles call professional locksmith Tim Okos (605-3098). He has the right tools and knows his stuff and does other handy work too. Tim also practices being an environmental business by recycling his tool batteries.

Don’t make it easy for people. Read my Tips for surviving low season on Ambergris Caye. It will give you a useful guide on what to do in certain situations crime wise. They can be applied in most places but I hope no one ever needs them.

Back to the Main Topic and Crime in San Pedro

Over the years, I have had a few things like a bike, and gas can disappear.  The silver lining with the bike was that I bought a way cooler one. See my deluxe royal blue beach cruiser on Buying a Bike in Belize. Truthfully in almost 14 years on this island in about seven different locations, I have not had enough stolen to make me start looking elsewhere. It is worth noting I have had things taken from me in Canada as well, and it felt the same in both countries – not good.

One couple I am friends with, leave stuff on their cart all the time and affirm regularly they never get stuff taken and so far so good. My other friend sometimes forgets to lock her golf cart, and she also confirms so far so good. Of course, I do not recommend either.  On the other hand, I have also had friends complain of something as small as their cart rag (for wiping the seats) disappearing.

As for locking your vehicle, you may not realize it, but the reason why you need to secure your cart is that in many cases the ignition can be easily turned on by something similar such as a bike lock key. I have done it before and can verify that it is not an urban legend. Some people and cart rental companies put custom ones in – even so, locking is always recommended. And with so many new cart companies on the island, I would imagine many of them are low budget operations and not installing specialized ignitions.

Produce shopping in San Pedro Belize

One existing potential area for crime is the Thunderbolt water taxi. If timed right someone could make a quick getaway. I feel safe, however, with the twice-daily traffic that passes close to my apartment. I have also safely used it for shipping too, and the price was very reasonable.  I sent a computer monitor to my friend “Solar Steve” on the 3:00 pm to Corozal. It cost me $5 for the box. They do it all in a notebook, and I did not get a receipt. But the package was well addressed with his name and phone number, and everything happened as it should. For my record, I did snap a picture of the guy I handed my box to.

Water taxi dock San Pedro, Ambergris Belize

We all know crime can also happen in the day – like the time I almost got robbed in broad daylight while walking down a back road near Crazy Canucks and Roadkill Bar. I was heading to Sunday Funday Jam and a guy tried to do a snatch and grab. Thankfully I caught the straps of my purse as he was pulling it off my arm. Romance to Reality and My Showdown with a Robber will give you the full story of how it all went down that day, and a picture of where I was when it happened.

I still walk past that intersection on days I don’t get a ride to aquafit class which is thankfully not often. I work out at the big public pool at the San Pedro Fitness Club, at Grand Baymen Gardens. I never feel uneasy, but I do stay aware.

We are relatively crime free in San Pedro Belize

The other thing about crime here is that one really must consider we live in a small town ‘wild west’. There are often strange episodes where people who need to be kept off the streets are set free, and police sometimes do things they shouldn’t. Of course, that happens everywhere, but we often get real crazy twists attached, and sometimes you might know the person(s) involved.

Remember if you see something not right and feel safe and comfortable doing so, document it. Take pictures, if possible a short video and make a few notes to help you stay clear on what you saw.

Safe neighbourhood in downtown San Pedro

Traffic is another area that scares me worse than crime. Golf carts, automobiles, (including taxis) are at an all-time high. Many cabs are also in a questionable condition where the driver has to help you in or out of the vehicle due to a broken door latch.  That is just not safe. The odd time when I see the right vehicles I can find joy driving in traffic on this wabi sabi island.

Middle Street San Pedro Town Ambergris Belize

At night time, there can be a bit more cause for concern but that is everywhere. A San Ignacio area friend told me the last time here, (a few years ago) he got a beer bottle thrown at his cart. He was on his way for late-night street food. Luckily the guy’s aim was way off as he was aiming for my friend’s head. That is definitely not a normal happening, although sometimes weird random and usually alcohol-fueled things like that happen late at night.

Some measures are being taken to increase safety.  The island received 12 recently graduated (August 8) tourism police officers from the Police Training Academy in Belmopan to help keep the island safer. Be sure to welcome and thank them for keeping us safe when you see them around town.

Relatively Crime free in San Pedro Belize

It was slightly darker than the recent harvest moon picture below on the night I got my phone stolen a few years back. I should have been wearing my bag to the inside as I walked and had it fully zipped. Even though I was intentionally blocking the open part with my arm, the Houdini like thief rode by, grabbed my Nexus 6 and disappeared into the night. He was so stealth, I barely felt his wind. Act Fast on a Stolen Cell Phone will give you some great tips to help find your phone if it gets stolen on the island.

I feel safe walking in downtown San Pedro at night

I Was a Bad Girl

The other day, I got a big fat F in doing my part on phasing out single-use plastics. A bit foggy from giving up coffee and sugar for four days, I left the house without my reusable shopping bags and take-out taco container.  I was only going to FB messenger the first pic and taunt a few International La Fonda taco lovers by putting the second picture in my blog. Then I figured I might as well come clean and give you something to drool over. The second picture is also “tainted” and the other reason I got an F yesterday is those two shopping bags on the stool beside the taco stand in the bottom pic are mine.  I vow to do better next time. I know better. I have for a long time, been more scared of the insane amount of garbage in the wrong places on Ambergris Caye than I am about crime on the island. Here’s hoping crime stays at bay and garbage goes away. We need a healthier #ambergreencaye.

Orange Walk tacos with avocado sauce sold in San Pedro
I feel safe walking around San Pedro Belize at night

It was a tasty mission doing better the next night. I walked over to Albertina’s for some shrimp tacos and I took my reusable container.

Albertinas Shrimp tacos Central Park Downtown San Pedro

Earn a Few Karma Points

Leaving off on a happier note.

The pic below is where I buy occasional Fantasy 5 lottery tickets – there are a few places on Ambergris Caye that sell them. You can also purchase scratch tickets here too if you like to play for fun. If we get a winner, the pot will get split with my friend Cindy and benefit her daughter Tinker. If you are one who likes to earn good karma points, please send out a good thought that we hit big. We are both very lucky at numbers in dice playing backgammon and believe we can manifest a big win during low season 🙂  

This year, a few businesses are feeling the pinch of tourism being notably slower than it has been in the recent past few seasons 🙁  Paying it forward for karma points (hopefully) and wishing for seat sales so you can all afford vacations and help boost the Belize economy.

Where to buy lottery tickets in San Pedro Belize

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5 comments

Russell Long September 4, 2019 - 7:08 pm

Truth Be Told About Crime in San Pedro
I spent a week last Christmas on Ambergris Caye in include several trips to San Pedro. It was amazing how safe everyone felt including trips to SP late at night.
I must say the people there were very courteous, respectful, considerate, and also way helpful. A young couple took the time to walk us several blocks to a major street when we became lost in a poorly lighted area which may not have been a better part of SP. Yet they refused to accept any compensation for their time. That is something senior citizens don’t forget!
There will always be crime, some very bad, so not so bad, and many cases may never be solved. Yes, there is always room for improvement in any police department, every police department always needs more resources, and criminals usually have an advantage called “time” and the police are usually very pushed for “time”. Pun intended, criminals often serve very little “time” when they are caught!
Be proud of what you have. You have achieved something when someone feels safer walking down your downtown street than walking downtown in Columbia, SC, USA. You have a piece of paradise. Just keep working hard to make it better!

Reply
JJ August 28, 2019 - 8:32 am

I appreciate your upbeat attitude and agree with your general comments of risks in San Pedro but there is no denying the drug and gang problems in Belize City spill over onto La Bonita (San Pedro) as evidenced by the many shootings (gang and retribution) throughout the years. San Pedro is much much safer than any large city in the US or Canada. For the most part, if you don’t go looking for trouble, you are fine and safe (especially in the resort areas up north) but there are exceptions such as the recent shooting deather of Dr. Swank while on a fishing excursion. Also, the SP Police departments low rate of solving/clearing serious crime cases does not inspire confidence. Truth be told, I feel safer on the mainland and jungle at times than in SP.

I love Belize and San Pedro and will continue to have a place here. Tourist should come and enjoy all that San Pedro and Belize have to offer but the government of Belize and local officials needs to do more to address the real underlying criminal activities leading to crime in San Pedro.

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tacogirl August 29, 2019 - 7:54 am

So relative to the individual JJ, I recently had an extended traveler tell me he would not go to Corozal when I suggested it for visit. Why because of a 2017 murder there. However, the funny part of that is he is temporarily living in Belize City for work. I agree do not go looking for trouble. Sometimes people get “tropical Disneyland fever” and caught up in the moment.

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Scott Kick August 27, 2019 - 3:57 pm

You rock. Period end of sentence.

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tacogirl August 27, 2019 - 4:11 pm

Thanks, Scott – always loved your compliments. Hope all is going great with you.

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