How do expats in Ecuador respond to the following from the State Department?
CRIME: Crime is a severe problem in Ecuador. Crimes against American citizens in the past year ranged from petty theft to violent crimes, including armed robbery, home invasion, sexual assault and homicide. Low rates of apprehension and conviction of criminals – due to limited police and judicial resources – contribute to Ecuador’s high crime rate.
Non-violent crimes, including pick-pocketing, purse-snatching, robbery, bag-slashing and hotel room theft, are the most common types of crimes committed against U.S. citizens in Ecuador. They occur in all parts of Ecuador and incidents have increased in the past year. Pickpockets and other petty thieves are particularly active in airports, restaurants, public transportation, crowded streets, bus terminals and public markets and grocery stores. Backpackers are frequently targeted for robbery and “snatch and grabs;” business travelers carrying laptop computer bags are similarly targeted. Many travelers who travel by bus store their luggage below the bus or at their feet, where it is sometimes stolen. One particular method used by purse-snatchers in Ecuador is to distract the victim, sometimes by purposefully spilling liquid on the victim and pretending to help the victim clean it up, while accomplices snatch the victim’s bag. Thefts from vehicles (“smash and grabs”) have been known to take place not only when the vehicle was unattended, but also when it was occupied, particularly by a single female driver in slow-moving or stopped traffic.
To lower your risk of being a victim of petty theft or other non-violent crimes, consider leaving valuables and irreplaceable items in a safe place, or not bringing them at all. Make use of hotel safes when available, avoid wearing obviously expensive jewelry or designer clothing and carry only the cash or credit cards that you will need on each outing. Stay alert to pickpocketers when in crowds and when taking public transportation. Stay alert also to schemes to distract you, which could result in purse-snatching. We recommend that you do not store your passport in your luggage. Do not leave anything of value in plain view in a car, including sunglasses or sports equipment, and do not drive with purses, briefcases or valuables in plain view, such as on a passenger seat. Always be aware of your surroundings, and try to travel in groups.
Armed or violent robberies occur in many parts of Ecuador. Thieves and small gangs armed with guns or knives are active not only in Quito, Guayaquil and Manta, but also in smaller cities. In the past year, multiple U.S. citizen travelers have been robbed after using ATMs on the street and when exiting banks. In some cases, robbers have used motorcycles to approach their victims and flee the scene. Tourists have also been robbed at gunpoint on beaches and along hiking trails.
To lower your risk of being a victim of armed or violent robbery, you should avoid wearing expensive-looking jewelry and watches. Use caution when making withdrawals from ATMs and banks and use machines only inside shopping malls or other protected locations. When using an ATM, stay on the lookout for anyone watching or following you. Avoid deserted beaches, hiking trails, and infrequently traveled roads, as well as the interior regions of large city parks, particularly at night.
Robberies and assaults involving taxis present a significant safety concern, most specifically in the Guayaquil and Manta areas, but increasingly in Quito since Protected content . Carjackings have occurred in both rural and urban areas. Foreigners are often targeted specifically. In “secuestro express,” shortly after a rider enters the taxi, the vehicle is intercepted by armed accomplices of the taxi driver, who is normally complicit in the crime. The accomplices enter the vehicle, stage a kidnapping, threaten passengers with weapons (typically guns and/or knives), rob passengers of their personal belongings and then drive to various ATMs to withdraw money using the victims’ debit cards. In some recent instances, victims of secuestro express faced physical violence and/or were sexually assaulted.
To lower your risk of being a victim of carjacking or “secuestro express,” drive with doors locked and windows rolled up. In the Guayaquil area, the U.S. Embassy in Quito and the U.S. Consulate in Guayaquil both recommend that you use radio-operated taxi companies such as those listed on the U.S. Consulate General’s website instead of hailing taxis on the street (see more information under “Crime: Guayaquil and Coastal Ecuador” below). In areas other than Guayaquil consider using radio-operated taxi companies or taxis associated with hotels. If you must hail a taxi on the street, increase your security by seeking out taxis that are officially registered and in good repair. Registered taxis in Ecuador are usually yellow, display matching unit numbers on the windshields and the side doors, each printed on an orange placard, feature a taxi co-operative name on the side, and an orange license plate. (For special information on taxi risks in Guayaquil, see the section below.)
Incidents of sexual assault and rape increased in the past year, including in well-traveled tourist areas. In many instances, criminals targeted women who had become separated from their group. Criminals sometimes use alcohol or incapacitating drugs such as scopolamine on unsuspecting tourists in order to rob and/or sexually assault them. So-called “date rape drugs” are put into drinks in order to drug the unsuspecting victim. The drug renders the victim disoriented and can cause prolonged unconsciousness and serious medical problems. To lower your risk of being a victim of sexual assault, travel in groups, be aware of alcohol or drugs, never allow a stranger to “buy” you a drink and never leave your drink unattended.
Murder of U.S. citizens occurs in Ecuador. Often, the suspects or perpetrators of the murders were personally known to the victims. Since September Protected content , three brutal murders of U.S. citizens have occurred in Ecuador. The investigations of these murders have not proceeded with the speed and thoroughness many Americans expect. The Ecuadorian government recently opened the following emergency hotline that callers can use to inform police about murders or contract killings. The number is Protected content .
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States,you may be breaking local law too.