Crime continues to drop in Cuenca with violence against women and motorcycle theft the exceptions

Dec 27, 2021 | 5 comments

Police check a car for illegal drugs and firearms on Calle Simon Bolivar. (El Mercurio)

Cuenca is on track to maintain its reputation for having the lowest crime rate among Ecuador’s largest cities in 2021. Through the first 11 months of 2021, crime dropped in most categories, according to the Azuay Judicial Police.

Credit: El Mercurio

“Overall, the news is good in regards to crime,” says Azuay Province Governor Matías Abad. “Murders and violence against persons remain low and most of the categories of robberies show decreases compared to pre-pandemic levels. The exceptions are crimes against women and the theft of motorcycles.”

Cuenca has recorded 11 murders through November compared to 23 in 2020 and 16 in 2018 and 2019. Physical assaults with firearms and knives were also down, dropping 17 percent from 2020. According to Abad, Cuenca should rank among the top ten Latin American cities of 500,000 population or more for lowest homicide rate, at 1.83 per 100,000. By contrast, the murder rate is five times higher in Guayaquil and Manta, he said, and 10 times higher in Medellin and Cali, Colombia

The crime most frequently reported in Cuenca is violence against women, followed closely by violence between family members. Nidia Solis, representative of the women’ rights group Cabildo por las Mujeres, blames some of the violence on restrictions imposed by the pandemic but says attacks on women has always been high in Ecuador. “People spent more time indoors during the last two years and this leads to conflicts but, on the other hand, we continue to fight against the violent macho traditions that are endemic in Ecuador and all of Latin America.”

Thefts of both of persons and property, are down in all categories, with the exception of motorcycle theft. “This can be partly explained because of the increase of motorcycles in recent years,” says police spokesman Froilán Salinas. “The number of motorcycles registered in Cuenca has increased almost 40 percent since 2018. Besides increasing in number, they are much easier to steal than cars.”

So why is crime low in Cuenca? Salinas credits overall prosperity and strong neighborhood ties to the lower rate. “We do not have the desperately poor barrios you see in Guayaquil and even Quito. These are places were criminals control the streets but this doesn’t exist here,” he says. “In Cuenca, we have better lighting and better utilities, such as drinking water and sewers and this makes people more comfortable.”

Despite the good numbers, Salinas says there is, among many resident, the perception that crime is increasing. “People have high expectations of living secure lives here so when they hear reports of crime they sometimes have an exaggerated reaction.”

He blames much of the perception on social media. “Just like with the pandemic, the internet allows misinformation to spread quickly. With all the security cameras we have today, images of crimes are uploaded and shared on WhatsApp and Facebook. Sometimes people see the same crime from different cameras and believe they are new crimes.” He adds: “To be honest, we don’t know what to do about it since more and more people are on social media. Bad information is difficult to correct.”

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