By Martin Simmons
On a recent visit to Loja Province, a man and his wife described a home invasion they had suffered earlier this year. Although the couple lost a television, cell phones and several hundred dollars in cash, they were unhurt except for bruises they received from being tied up.
When I asked them about the police investigation, they said they had decided not to report the crime. “One of the men told me that his family was very poor and that he needed money for food and clothing,” the wife told me.
They added that they knew of several other victims of home invasions or other robberies, mostly around Vilcabamba, who had also decided not to report crimes, some because the robbers threatened them if they made a report.
“We love it here and we don’t want any trouble,” the wife said.
I was dumbfounfed.
One of the worst decisions the victim of a serious crime can do is to not report it. Among other things, it means the bad guys are on the loose —with your belonging — and even worse, that they are encouraged to commit more crimes against other people.
Another reason for not reporting the crime, the victims said, is that the local police wouldn’t conduct a serious investigation even if they did. Some of their friends, they said, believe that the police are personally involved in some of the crimes.
I have heard these complaints before about the police in the Loja and Vilcabamba area and have no information to confirm or refute their validity. One thing is certain, however: the situation will only get worse if crime reports are not filed. Statistically, reporting crimes rarely puts victims at risk and, very important, it puts the crime on the record.
I understand the decision to not report a crime if the victims believe that the criminals will return to take revenge. If this is the case, and the victims live in fear for their lives, I would suggest they pack up and get the hell out of Dodge. But first, they should report the crime.
As for the argument that the thieves are poor people trying to feed their families, this is utter nonsense. This is occasionally the case with petty criminals but almost never for criminal gangs, such as those who commit home invasions. These are dangerous people and potential killers who are typically involved in the drug trade.
As a postscript, a gang that was involved in a number of robberies and at least one home invasion in Cuenca are behind bars today, serving 12-year sentences.
Martin Simmons and his wife Rebecca have divided their time between Cuenca and California since 2002. A former criminology professor at San Diego State University, he has studied international crime trends, including in countries and cities popular with expats, since his retirement in 2001.