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Ecuador - Crime and Safety

Ecuador does have a high crime rate, particularly in cities such as Quito and Guayaquil. Foreign nationals are often targeted by criminals and in recent years there have been increasing numbers of cases where they have been victims of robbery, assault and even murder. In order to carry out their crimes, criminals regularly use the threat of violence to get what they want. It is advised that if you are robbed that you hand over your wallet or purse and do not resist, as this increases the chance of violence.

There are a number of safety risks from those who ignore regulations on the roads. The roads are not in good condition and the driving practices of those who use them mean that the accident levels are high, as is the number of fatalities on the roads each year. Those who use public transport, particularly at night, often find themselves victims of crime, with incidents reported including robbery and assault.

Among other risks that foreign nationals should be aware of is the regular breakouts of violence at political protests. There are often protests held in the major cities, usually taking place at government buildings. This means that the areas around these places are to be avoided. Foreign nationals are not permitted to take part in such protests and can be arrested if they try.

Another risk is what is known as ‘express kidnapping’. People are kidnapped to extort a quick ransom out of the victim’s family or they are driven to a cash machine to withdraw as much money as possible. Foreign nationals are often the target of such kidnappings and it is advised to avoid creating a predictable routine and to be vigilant and aware of their surroundings. Passengers in taxis are also often victims of crime, particularly robbery, and many taxis have been held up at gun point. It is recommended that people avoid hailing a taxi in the street and use a radio taxi instead.

The police respond quickly to calls for help, but are not particularly good at following up on investigations. There is a very poor conviction rate and arrest rates are also low. The government is making a series of changes to the police force which includes ensuring some university education for all police officers. If you should need the assistance of the police while you are in Ecuador the emergency number is 991.

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