Tackling crime in Panama
Panama is located between North and South America with coasts in the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean. This strategic geography makes Panama attractive to organized crime groups wanting to link drug producers with drug consumers using land, air and maritime trafficking routes.
The Panama Canal plays a fundamental role in bridging the world’s lands and waterways, with more than 12,000 vessels passing through every year. Whilst this serves legitimate business, transnational organized crime also finds opportunity for business across the 77km-long canal. In addition, Panama’s Darien Gap - a dense strip of forest along the border with Colombia – is known to facilitate the trafficking of arms, drugs and persons.
The main crime challenges Panamanian law enforcement faces include drug trafficking, money laundering, and trafficking in firearms, people and counterfeit goods.
With regional organized crime networks invariably operating on a global level, the role of INTERPOL’s National Central Bureau (NCB) in Panama is crucial to safeguarding national and regional security.
INTERPOL in Panama
Panama’s NCB is part of the criminal investigations police, the national operational and intelligence unit in charge of serious organized crime. It is the lead agency for taking national criminal investigations beyond national borders when Panama’s national police, or PNP, needs to work with police forces in other countries.
The NCB is an operational unit, meaning NCB police staff can exercise police power across the country on behalf of the national police, including the power of arrest.
Staffed with ten police officers, INTERPOL Panama provides a 24-hour permanent service. By providing globally-sourced intelligence about regional crime, the NCB helps police officers across the country to detect and investigate the flow of illicit goods along trafficking routes in and around the country. It plays a central role in preventing the country and surrounding region from serving international organized crime.
Law enforcement in Panama
Panama’s national police force is called ‘La Policía Nacional de Panamá (PNP)’.
PNP is part of the Ministry of Public Security, which also has command over the National Air-Naval Service and National Border Service.