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Crime and Safety

Colombia - Crime and Safety

There are risks to living in Colombia both from crime and the threat of terrorism, and it is essential to be aware of your safety at all times. Crime is a big problem with mugging, burglary, theft and credit card fraud all being current issues.

Robberies are frequently carried out by drugging the victim and then robbing them and about 5000 cases of this occur each year. Victims can be unconscious for 24 hours or more. The drug is administered in food or drink to people usually in bars so official advice is not to accept either from strangers.

Another scam used is fake police identification when the criminal claims that they are from the police. They say you have counterfeit money which they take from you for it to be examined and say it can be reclaimed at the police station. The bus system can also be dangerous as gangs of youths attack buses and rob and sexually assault passengers sometimes taking the bus and setting it on fire.

Americans on official business are not allowed to use public transport. Taxis are usually safe but it is advisable to get the shop, hotel or restaurant to call one for you and you will then get a number to check that it is the one meant for you. It is not a good idea to accept cab rides if you have not requested one, as there are a number of unauthorised taxis in operation.

Traffic safety is a major issue and traffic laws are rarely enforced. There are many accidents involving buses. Seat belts are mandatory for front seat passengers but not for children although children under 10 are not allowed to travel in the front of the vehicle. When driving there is also a danger of carjacking and kidnap although police have a number of strategies to deal with this problem.

Political violence is a major problem. Kidnappings and assassinations are common along with bombings and other terrorist acts. Drug trafficking is also common amongst the terrorist organisations. Colombia also has a problem with civil unrest with demonstrations and explosive devices being used against the police.

Police response is not good and their public presence is low. If you should need to call them the number in Bogotá is 428 645 although in the rest of the country the number is 112. It is advisable for all foreign nationals to be aware of the number of their embassy in case of emergency.

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