Ecuador’s National Police are stepping up efforts to combat a growing number of robberies in the country’s largest cities. In response to what it calls a “rising tide of crime, including more violent crime,” the police command announced Friday that it is adding a special office in Guayaquil, where crime has increased dramatically.
According to police statistics, robberies have increased from 10 to 30 percent in Guayaquil, Quito, Quevedo, Santo Domingo, Manta and Machala. “What is especially worrying is that the robberies are more often accompanied by violence involving guns and knives,” a police statement said. So far in 2020, 58 percent of all robberies involve injury to victims compared to 47 percent in 2019, statistics show. In Quito and Guayaquil, business and neighborhood groups are demanding an increase in police patrols for businesses and high-crime residential areas. “We need help and we need it immediately,” says Gustavo Ruiz of the Guayaquil Chamber of Small Businesses. “We are being attacked every day by thieves and many of our people are being hurt in the process. We also appeal to the municipal government to strengthen laws regarding multiple riders on motorcycles.” The Guayaquil National Police office reports that almost half of robberies in the city are committed by motorcycle, most with a passenger perpetrator and a driver. According to police, the most common robberies in Guayaquil and Quito are of restaurants, where money is stolen from cash registers and employees. In some cases, restaurant customers are ordered at gun-point to turn over cash, jewelry and cell phones. Street crimes, typically committed by two or three criminals, are also increasing, police say, with cell phones, cash and jewelry being the primary targets. Also on the increase are crimes against food delivery services, usually targeting motorcycle delivery drivers. National Police spokesman Alejandro Ramos blames some of the increased crime on the financial crisis created by the coronavirus pandemic. “The increasing level of poverty is a factor and we understand that there are more desperate people out there. On the other hand, the violence associated with robberies has little to do with poverty and is mostly committed by career criminals.” According to police statistics, not all cities show a major increase in crime when compared to 2019. Rates in Cuenca, Loja and Ambato have risen by less than 10 percent or have held steady, year over year.