How to avoid being a crime victim, or not. The other day I was riding my bike down “Blacksmiths” Road on my way to Paradise Park. When I get to Plaza de Las Herrerías I ride through there and head east for a couple of hundred yards to get there.
So here I am approaching Plaza de Las Herrerías on my bike when I see a guy leaning up against a post with his back to me and looking at what was probably a small map or tourist guide. On top of a post next to him, about 5 feet away, was a black bag with a black handle. The guy, probably about 60ish, was facing away from it looking at his map or whatever.
As soon as I saw that I immediately thought tourist. No local would do that and that includes expats, I hope. I just shook my head in disbelief and then deliberately rode my bike right between the two posts and in between him and what was probably his camera bag. If I was a ladrón (thief) I could of easily scooped that up without even slowing down and been long gone. My hope was that he saw me, realized what I could of done and got the hint that you just don’t do that.
I think most of the people here and that includes tourists too do a lot better job than this guy did of not creating an opportunity to be a potential crime victim and who was my inspiration for this post, actually, or unfortunately.
Here’s a shot of the posts and that’s my bike.
The vast majority of the crime here is petty theft and it occurs when a thief sees an opportunity to separate you from something valuable of yours and get away with it. When they see an opportunity staring them in the face, they take it. Don’t give them one.
I was at a party late last year and was talking with an expat who’s been here for a couple of years who had just had his wallet pickpocketed out of his back pocket on a bus in Quito. Buses can get crowded here and it’s very often standing room only. The thief saw the bulge in the guys back pocket, saw an opportunity to get it and took it.
There are some very skilled pickpockets here and a crowded bus is one of their favorite places to operate.
Let’s say you’re at a nice restaurant in Cuenca and are just sitting down at a table. The waiter comes over and you place your order. While you’re waiting for your food to arrive you get out your smart phone to check your email.
The waiter arrives with your food and places it on the table. You put your phone down on your table in front of you, it’s in your view and right in front of you so no problem, right? Suddenly you feel someone tapping on your shoulder, you instinctively turn around to look and the person smiles, says “pardon, senior” and walks away. You smile also and turn back around to continue eating your meal.
The person who tapped you on the shoulder has a partner that just strolled by your table as you turned around to face them and pocketed your smart phone as they walked by. At this point it could be a good minute or so before you even notice your phone isn’t there anymore and realize what had happened. You weren’t paying attention to the person that walked by your table and your head was momentarily turned in the other direction so you really don’t even know what they looked like or even what sex they were.
I made up that restaurant scenario but do you see how easy that would be for a couple of ladrónes? All because you created an opportunity to be a victim. When the waiter brought your food if you had just put your phone in your front pocket that never could have happened.
Here are some personal rules that I go by that you might find helpful.
I never carry a bank card on me or my original cedula unless I’m making a cash run to the bank and then it’s straight to the bank, on my bike, and then straight home and then I put the cash, bank card, and my cedula away.
Other than the above I only carry a copy of my cedula with me and never more than about $40 cash and always in my front pocket. The copy of my cedula is in my backpack that goes everywhere I do. Just my personal preference but I don’t own a smart phone.
Other than a cash run if for whatever reason I need to carry my original cedula, passport (that has my visa in it), bank card(s) or a large amount of cash on me and especially on a bus it goes in my money belt. No exceptions. I can see this happening if I have a large cash expenditure, take an inter-provincial bus or a bus out of the country like to Colombia or Peru or a flight to another country like Colombia or Peru.
Crime is something I rarely think about and if you don’t create any opportunities to be a potential victim you shouldn’t either. An overwhelming majority of the expats that are here from the states think they’re safer here than where they came from and so do I.
You can never be 100% safe from crime, anywhere, but a little common sense goes a long way and an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.