Is Nicaragua safe?Â Anyone traveling to Nicaragua probably asks this question.Â A quick bit of research online, and one can see various studies and articles remarking on NicaraguaÂs low crime rate relative to other countries in the region.
Expats and citizens alike will be quick to tell prospective visitors or future residents that they feel safe and welcome in the various communities in Nicaragua.Â But why?
What makes Nicaragua so safe?
An even more interesting question, why does Nicaragua feel so safe?Â Sure, one sees the police when driving or walking down the street.Â Something one does not see, is violent crime.
It is conspicuously absent from newspapers and daily life.Â How has the Nicaraguan police force stopped what the police in El Salvador and Honduras seem unable to tackle?
Soft Touch vs. Iron Fist
Like many Latin American nations, Nicaragua is known for its friendly and warm people.Â Turns out, that might just be the trick.Â Many Latin American countries that have struggled with crime have instituted an ÂIron FistÂ style of policing.
Similar to police forces in the United States, they have acquired military grade armaments, expanded their forces, and come down hard on any crime.
Yet, despite these countriesÂ efforts, they remain some of the most dangerous in the world.Â Nicaragua is safe, in fact, because it employs a ÂSoft TouchÂ approach to policing that has reaped results.
What were once the most dangerous areas of the countryÂs capital are no longer forbidden territory for other locals, or even for foreigners.
Sure, one should practice common sense when walking around a city of over a million people, but Nicaraguan cities are safer than many in the US, and you can feel it.Â How did they make their ÂSoft TouchÂ have more impact than an ÂIron Fist?ÂÂ They simply went back to their roots: Community.
Many probably remember their time as a child, not worrying about playing outside or going down the street.Â And you might remember your local policemen as well.
They probably smiled at kids as they walked to school, let you cross at the crosswalk, and they built a partnership with the community.Â They would keep their neighbors safe from threats, and they trusted their neighbors to regulate themselves and maintain standards of behavior.
In Nicaragua, that is the ideal for which they still strive, and often the reality you see on the street.Â By building trusting, communicative neighborhoods, they are able to stop the development of gangs, youth crime, and drug sales before they can take hold.
This approach has shown drastic results over the last twenty years, and Nicaraguans who still remember fearing their own street can now be proud of where theyÂre from.
That pride translates to protection.Â By using the police force to forge communities rather than look at them from the outside, Nicaragua has built a network of responsible citizens who still hold values too often forgotten in other countries.
Neighbors Helping Neighbors
Nobody likes nosey neighbors, but neighbors that help carry groceries, watch kids in a pinch, and will notice if something doesnÂt seem right?Â That sounds like a community one could get used to, and none of these things are uncommon in Nicaragua.
The family is at the core of social life for many Nicaraguans, and family inherently brings people together.Â By consistently emphasizing the role of the community in policing itself through family values, Nicaragua has made itself a safe, friendly, and approachable country.
Nicaragua is poorer than most countries in the hemisphere; Nicaragua is in the same region as some of the most dangerous countries in the world; and Nicaragua is safe.Â It is not a coincidence that its police force is so different from those of its neighbors.
If you have been thinking of visiting Nicaragua, prepare to travel back to a time when neighbors smile at each other, the police are really only there to protect your safety, and the sound of children playing outside is as common as birdsong.