Newly released crime statistics put Ecuador in third place among all Latin American countries for lowest murder rate. Only Chile and Bolivia have lower homicide rates.
InSight Crime, an organization that tracks crime statistics in the Americas, calls Ecuador’s improvement in murder and violent crime rates one of the most dramatic in the world, noting that the country has moved from a 12th place ranking in less than 10 years.
From January to September Ecuador recorded 953 murders. According to the country’s Ministry of the Interior, which is responsible for law enforcement, the figure represents a murder rate 5.8 per 100,000 inhabitants. “We moved into single digits for murder two years years ago and the rate has continued to drop,” says Deputy Minister Diego Fuentes. “It was only seven years ago, in 2009, that the rate stood at 18.74.”
Fuentes added that the murder rate mirrors the rate of other categories of violent crime, which have also dropped significantly.
InSight Crime says that there is no mystery to why Ecuador is becoming safer. “They have invested heavily in law enforcement personnel and forensic facilities and training,” it says. “Criminal convictions rates have improved by 80% as has the rate of arrests.” According to InSight, Ecuador has increased spending on law enforcement by 350% in seven years.
Among the country’s larger cities, Cuenca and Loja have the lowest murder rates, at 3.1 per 100,000. Quito has made the most impressive improvement, improving from a rate of 6.9 to 4 within three years.
The cities with the highest murder rates are Esmeraldas, Manta and Guayaquil, the ministry reports.
The ministry says that most murders in Ecuador occur between people who are acquainted with each other, primarily in street fights. Revenge, land disputes and domestic conflict are other motives. Knives are involved in more than half the murders committed while guns are used in about 30% of cases.
InSight says that the murder rates in Cuenca and Loja make the cities among the 10 safest in Latin America.