According to the national police, crime in Cuenca’s historic district has dropped dramatically in recent years. They also say that trouble spots remain, mostly in the El Sagrario sector, which includes much of the northern part of the district.
“We’ve been able to reduce crime by more than 50 percent in the last decade in the historic district,” says police captain Mario Zambrano. “We have accomplished this by putting more police on the streets and with the help of surveillance cameras and the 911 system.”
He adds: “Criminal acts continue, however, and we have more work to do.”
National police are using what they call “lightning strikes” to target specific locations where the crime rate remains high. “Our plan is move in quickly when crime is reported and make arrests before suspects are able to escape,” Zambrano says. “Our focus since the beginning of the year has been Civic Plaza and the Rotary and Ninth of October markets,” he says.
In addition to making dozens of arrests, police have confiscated knives, guns and illegal drugs in the area as well as smuggled and home-made liquor and untaxed cigarettes.
According to municipal spokesman Gustavo Miller, the aim of police is not only to make the historic district safer for residents and workers but to make it more attractive to tourists. “Today, the tourist area is primarily in the southern area of the historic district, from Gan Colombia to Calle Larga,” he says. “When the tram begins operation next year, we expect more visitors to stop along the route, which includes the market areas along Calle Mariscal La Mar and Sangurima. Our intention is to make the markets safer and more attractive.”
According to Miller, police work and the placement of video cameras at intersections has made many previously dangerous parts of the historic district safer. “Several years ago, the area along Calle Larga, from Diez de Agosto (Market) to Hayana Capac was considered dangerous,” he says. “Today, it is filled with people day and night. This is the result of effective police patrols and new technology that allows us to identify criminals.”
In addition to making the tram route safer, Miller says police will focus on the San Francisco Plaza neighborhood before the reopening of the plaza later this year. “We are revitalizing this area and expect it to attract many more visitors than it has in the past. To accomplish this, however, we must not only make it more attractive but safer too.”