In just six years, residents of Ecuador have moved from the middle of the pack of Latin American countries to second place in feeling secure in their communities.
In the 2015 Gallup Law and Order Index, Ecuador ranks only behind Chile in confidence in local police, feelings of personal safety, and self-reported incidence of theft. Overall, residents of Latin America and the Caribbean were the least likely among all global regions last year to feel good about their personal security.
Crime statistics mirror feelings of personal security in Chile and Ecuador, holding steady in Chile, but improving markedly in Ecuador. Both Chile and Ecuador have the lowest murder rates in the region, just below that of the U.S.
According to Gallop, Ecuador has increased funding for law enforcement by the more than 150% in five years, the largest increase in Latin America during that period.
Eight out of 10 countries with the highest homicide rates in the world are located in Latin America and the Caribbean, with the region accounting for 36% of the world’s homicides in 2014, according to a United Nations report. Furthermore, the Americas have overtaken Africa — where index scores are only slightly higher — as the region with the most murders, largely because of a surge in organized drug crime.
The worst one-year drop in the index took place in Panama — which has been considered one of the safer countries in Central America in recent years — largely driven by fewer residents feeling safe walking alone at night in 2014 (40%) than in 2013 (50%). Again, crime statistics bear out the growing fears in Panama, showing higher rates of robbery and assault in the country.
Venezuela’s Gallop index score is the worst not only in the region, but in the world. In 2013, just 19% of Venezuelan adults said they felt safe walking alone at night in the city or area where they live. Furthermore, just 26% of Venezuelans expressed confidence in the local police and 22% reported that money had been stolen from them or another household member in the last 12 months. The ongoing political and economic crisis in Venezuela has contributed to a surging murder rate, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime. In 2013, Venezuela had the second-highest murder rate in the world after Honduras, at 53.7 per 100,000 inhabitants.