The comforting thing about this whole subject of thieves is that, at least in Costa Rica, they usually go to sleep late at night, so they won't usually start their activities until after noon or 3 p.m. Therefore, you can enjoy beautiful, safe mornings and some hours after mid-day lunch. But this situation could change.
During late November and early December, when the government and private enterprise pay their employees their 13th month which is required by law, much money circulates and the press makes announcements warning against pickpockets and lists the tricks thieves use to get hold of others' money.
When I take an exercise walk around my neighbourhood or at Sabana Park, I leave at home my wallet, wrist watch, and wedding and University of Colorado graduation rings. The only things I take with me are my identification card and enough money to buy, a pipa for its coconut water or a granizado (flavoured frosted ice) which is served in a paper cup.
The late Fabian Dobles, noted author of many bestsellers, once told me that he had interviewed various thieves in jail and all had said they preferred to stay away from a place that had a barking dog or was well illuminated. Thus, it 's a good idea to put in your house bulbs that light up automatically when it gets dark and shut off during daylight They're a necessity especially when you go off on a trip and you leave no one to watch your house. If you have room in your house for a pet dog, that'll give you greater security. Here I must recommend that you never leave your house alone while off on a trip. A phone or the ringing of a doorbell unanswered will tip off thieves that there's nobody in the house and chances are they'll try to break in.
A few additional comments by Jörn Malek
The above precautions mentioned by late Frank Thomas Gallardo are necessary around the metropolitan area. In some rural areas people have no bars on their windows and leave their house and car open all the time. When I personally do my exercise walk I always have at least 500 Dollars with me, because should you get mugged, the muggers can get mad if they don't find anything on you. If you live like we do in the metropolitan area and don't like the metal bars, you might want to try how we have our place secured: Instead of a fence put up a wall. On top of the wall put high-voltage cables. We keep at least 5 big dogs that will bark at the smallest thing. (The dog people have the biggest respect is our Giant Pyrenees). Instead of a doorbell we have an intercom where the ringer needs to know a number to make the bell ring. On the phone we have an answering-service or an answering-machine and number recognition.
If for some reason for a short time we have to leave the house alone, we have everything, especially the garden well lit and we sit a large Barni or Teddy-Bear in front of the TV set and have cartoons running. In my 40 years in Costa Rica we I had a car-radio stolen out of the car that was parked in front of the house, my wife had the wallet stolen out of her purse in a bus-ride from Limón to San José (from the guy sitting behind her), and despite all the dogs we had a microwave and gas-tank stolen from the garden-rancho. (At that time we had no high-voltage wall). At a rented vehicle a window was broken and baby-seat plus a pack of diapers was stolen.
Not considered a crime or theft is another way people steal your money. Legally it is called a breach of contract and not theft and that exactly is the problem. I needed my roof fixed and at a nearby school in Rohrmoser, where a couple of men with a truck and equipment were doing the same work, I asked them to come to my house to calculate to fix my roof. After an hour of taking measures and writing down the material that was needed he gave the quote on printed stationary, handed me a business card. The work would cost $1200. I said OK let's do it, but he wanted $600 in advance to buy the material. I gave him the $600 and he gave me a receipt and said he would start tomorrow.
After he did not show up for the next three days, which is not unusual I called the number on the card. His father answered. He said he would tell his son to call back. Next day he called back telling me that he doesn't want to do the work any more and that he will keep the $600 for the 3 times he came to the house and nobody was there. (Which was a lie because I worked in my house at that time). Talking to my lawyer he told me that trying to recover that money would cost far more than the $600. So my advice is never, in no circumstances pay any money in advance for anything, no matter how official or legitimate the business seems to be, unless you already know the person or business well.
Despite al that I personally feel much safer here in Costa Rica as in any other Country I lived in, especially the United States. Even in Switzerland where the Russian Mafia operates very brutally with house and car-thefts. But since drugs and marihuana are not illegal there anymore and drug-addicts can go to a hospital to get their fix, all the drug-related robberies and crimes of the addicts to buy expensive illegal drugs have stopped now there. I believe a similar measure in Costa Rica would eliminate many drug-related crimes and the whole underworld of drug-dealers.