National Police statistics show that crime is decreasing in Cuenca and Azuay Province, but a private neighborhood group and social media posters claim the opposite is true.
Regional Police Commander Hugo Arroyo reported Wednesday that crimes decreased 6% in November and 16% in December over the same months in 2021. He said preliminary numbers show the downward trend is continuing in January.
“The recent numbers are good news but we are aware that they follow several months of increases and we cannot let our guard down,” Arroyo says. “Our immediate concern is that criminals are better organized with more of them associated with gangs that provide training. The most common crimes are home and business burglaries and car theft, followed by attacks on individuals, mostly for the purpose of theft.”
Arroyo added that gangs operating in Cuenca are not associated with the violent drug gangs operating in Guayaquil and other coastal cities. “The amount of drug activity in the city and province has remained steady over the past five years and does reflect drug-related crime on the coast. There is little drug transport activity here since we are not close to the ports.”
Arroyo’s statistics do not agree with those of the Citizen Security Council, a private neighborhood crime prevention organization. “Criminal activity in Cuenca is increasing based on our information,” says Froilán Salinas, president of the Security Council. “November and December had more crimes and the crime rate rose 15% in the second half of 2022.”
Salinas says the return to “normality” following the Covid-19 pandemic has been a major factor in increasing crime as well as gang activity at the Turi prison, which he says “spills beyond prison walls.” He agreed with Arroyo that criminal gangs are better organized but disagrees that Cuenca is not experiencing drug gang crime. “No, we are not witnessing the violence of Guayaquil but we believe members of those gangs are committing burglaries and other offenses in the city.”
When assessing the crime levels, Arroyo says it is important to base judgments on police statistics. “I am not sure where other organizations get their numbers but they are not official,” he said. “These have been compiled over the years, which gives us a basis for observing trends and the types of crimes committed.”
Social media exaggerates the fear of crime, Arroyo says. “On Facebook, Twitter and other internet media, there is a great amount of repetition of crime videos and comments, which leads people to think crime is more pervasive than it actually is. Often, this creates an atmosphere of hysteria.”
He adds: “There is no doubt that crime has increased locally over the past two to three years. Over all categories, incidents of criminal activity have increased about 10%, which is very concerning.”