Crime in Cuenca Ecuador: Truth vs. Fiction

Cuenca, Ecuador--Crime in Cuenca is a real and constant part of life in Ecuador. Whether you are simply visiting the city or if you are thinking about living and retiring in Ecuador, understanding and adapting to the crime levels in Cuenca is important for your safety and well-being. Get bad advice or fall for the top myths about crime in Cuenca, and you'll find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time. This article aims to honestly address the issue of crime in Cuenca and replace some of the myths about crime in Cuenca with facts.

Cuenca's Calle Larga

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Is Calle Larga Really The Most Dangerous Place In Cuenca?

One of the first myths about crime in Cuenca has to do with Calle Larga. Many publications written and published before 2009's clean up initiative along the street will tell you that Calle Larga is the most dangerous street in Cuenca. This is simply not true anymore.

Development around Calle Larga in the last few years has shifted the crime center in the historic old town. Though pickpockets and necklace snatchers are out in force throughout the entire historic district on Sundays, at night Calle Larga is not the danger zone it once was due to the many new restaurants and businesses that are open all along the street. These restaurants, such as CoffeeTree and Chipotle, are open late and keep an eye on their share of the street to protect their customers.

Instead of Calle Larga, if you want the most dangerous streets in Cuenca you need to watch out for the zone that runs from about Luis Cordero to Huyana Capac, from Juan Jaramillo to Sucre. Locals are held up most often here as they go clubbing and out at night, with the intersection of Presidente Borero and Juan Jaramillo held as the most dangerous late night spot in Cuenca according to local lore.

If I'm Not In Centro, I'm Safe

Another common myth about crime in Cuenca is that crime only happens in the center of the city, known as the Centro Historico. The Centro Historico is the touristic heart of the city, and it is true that pickpockets will prey on unwary tourists whenever they can. However, you put yourself in danger if you think that you won't be robbed outside of the tourist zone.

Whenever you are walking alone in Cuenca in the evening hours or in an unfamiliar neighborhood, you need to be alert and aware of your surroundings. Thieves thrive in many parts of the city, from dark thoroughfares like 12 de Abril to the outskirt zones like Los Pinos Bajos. Most will engage in opportunistic rather than violent crimes, but late night crime is a real problem throughout Cuenca. When in doubt, take a taxi rather than walking, or go with a friend rather than going alone.

No One Really Has A Gun Here!

A final major myth about crime in Cuenca is that the crime here is mostly non-violent and petty.  Don't be fooled, especially if you are thinking about becoming a resident of Cuenca.  Home invasions are often conducted at knifepoint, and those who make a big fuss will be shot.

It's not just for show that most homes in Cuenca have an alarm sign in their yards or pasted on their gates.  Armed thieves can and do break into homes in Cuenca, especially in notably well-to-do areas such as Challuabamba.  Violent break-ins have also been rising slightly, prompting a protest march against crime in Cuenca by locals in early 2011.  Keeping a large dog, having an alarm system, or contributing to funds for a neighborhood guard are common defense strategies for locals, and expats would be wise to consider these options as well.  Naturally, not being flashy with wealth or bragging about possessions will also help keep you from being a target!

Cuenca really can be a lovely city, and I don't want to scare you away from moving here if you are considering it.  However, don't wander in with rose colored glasses and false impressions - knowing the truth about crime in Cuenca will help keep you from being a target and ensure you have a good time while you are here.

Comments 9 comments

Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

I'm so glad you've dispelled these myths! Great Hub.


WriterOnTheRoam profile image

WriterOnTheRoam 5 years ago from Cuenca, Ecuador Author

Thanks for the feedback, Simone!


Traveler29 profile image

Traveler29 5 years ago from Indiana

This is a great Hub! I've spent most of my life in the criminal justice field so articles like this are always interesting to me. I always like to see when someone takes the time to investigate and put the facts out there.


WriterOnTheRoam profile image

WriterOnTheRoam 5 years ago from Cuenca, Ecuador Author

Thanks Traveler29! I get frustrated with misleading information, so happy to provide some clarity for others on what the real issues are on the ground.


AFS parent 4 years ago

Our daughter, an American AFS student, has been robbed twice in the last 3 weeks on her way to her after school dance class; once at gunpoint and the other time she was chased and grabbed. During this timeframe two fellow AFS students have also been robbed in the same area near the river. We appreciate your detailed review of crime in Cuenca and are trying to find a solution to keep her safe yet able to attend her language and dance classes and other activities.


WriterOnTheRoam profile image

WriterOnTheRoam 4 years ago from Cuenca, Ecuador Author

Thanks for your comment, AFS parent, and sorry to hear about your daughter's experiences.

I'm curious - was she walking to her class or waiting at a bus stop alone? In the Christmas season, I know snatch-and-grabs go up a bit citywide as the desperately poor try to make Christmas happen. Students - and especially female students - can be easy targets since they are smaller and usually have a bit of pocket change, if not a phone and netbook computer which could be sold.

One solution is to encourage her to travel with other students and avoid walking alone until Christmas and New Year's are over. Finding a taxi service you like and arranging for them to pick her up and drop her off from classes is another option. It adds a bit of expense, but may help her avoid developing the habit of jumping everytime a stranger gets close.

Remind her too about basic vigilance when she is going to or from class in this season - don't talk on the phone as you go, and don't be afraid to pop into a tienda or shop while someone suspicious goes by! I'm sure she is being cautious, but being extra watchful does help during the holidays.

Again, sorry she's been targeted and hope the rest of her class cycle is robbery-free!


doubletfan profile image

doubletfan 4 years ago from Dallas, TX

The criminals have plenty of guns, and do use them, but lets set this straight....there is LESS violent crime in Ecuador. Most robberies in Ecuador are non-violent unless the person being robbed resists.

And, the MOST likely place to be killed in Cuenca? The "tolerence zone" (i.e. prostitution zone)

We felt completely safe walking around most parts of Cuenca at night and found that Calle Larga was very safe most anytime of the day or evening.


JpC 4 years ago

Coming from the small town in Yakima, Wa, where gangs thrive, to a city 10 times as large, I feel far safer here in Cuenca. Reading the Yakima paper I see one guy shot in the leg, gang members rob a store then shoot at the police while fleeing. Crime here is nothing like in the US. Don't carry a purse at night, put keys, money in your pocket, use common sense!


Thundermama profile image

Thundermama 3 years ago from Canada

This was a really useful hub. Cuenca is on my bucket list of places I'd like to visit and I found this honest review of what crime is really like there quite eye opening and helpful.

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