Citizens begin to change routines, to reinforce the security of their homes and businesses.
Security has been the constant demand of Cuencanans for months. This city—considered quiet—is beginning to get used to reports of crimes and assaults with a great deployment of logistics and weapons.
But the people of Cuenca are reluctant to accept that. The debate about insecurity is active in the media and social networks, in addition to the actions of authorities and where the crime occurred—sometimes, with cordiality and, sometimes, in a violent manner.
This insecurity includes robberies and assaults on condominiums and homes located in areas considered safe, as well as assaults on businesses, vehicles also passers-by in commercial areas.
Between January and August 2022, the Ministry of the Interior reported 1,239 robberies in Cuenca, 13% more than in the same period in 2021.
During that time, citizens began to change their routines, to reinforce the security of homes and businesses, and to respond on their own when surprised by a criminal.
In September, on at least four occasions, neighbors came out to put a stop to crimes they witnessed.
On the night of Thursday, September 22nd for example, a group of outraged neighbors detained a person who tried to rob someone the El Cisne sector, in the Turi parish, who they turned over to the police.
“The next time we catch them, we’ll burn them,” shouted the crowd as they waited for the police to arrive. The suspect’s fear increased because the Police ignored the community alarm.
On Saturday, September 10th, five criminals entered the Corredentoras convent, in the Feria Libre sector. The nuns caught two of them and the residents of the sector gave them a beating before handing them over to the Police.
On Sunday, September 11th, a gang of 12 criminals broke into an exclusive urbanization in Challuabamba (north of Cuenca). They robbed two houses, tied up and gagged the owners and took jewelry and cell phones.
When they tried to enter another house, one of the neighbors chased the thieves away with shots in the air. The residents warned that if they discover criminals on their properties again, “they will do justice on their own.”
A few days later, in the Medio Ejido neighborhood, a group of citizens beat up an alleged assailant who was intimidating people in the area. The people continued beating the assailant even after the police arrived to take him into custody.
Home burglaries are the most worrying
The most worrying crimes being reported are home robberies. “Not because of the amount of gods taken, but because of the way they are carried out,” admits the governor of Azuay, Matías Abad.
From May to mid-September there have been at least a dozen home robberies involving organized gangs and unusual logistical deployment. They study their victims, they are clear about their objectives, they are armed and commit several similar robberies in the area before disappearing.
These types of robberies began in the residential sectors of Challuabamba and Puertas del Sol last May. They have spread to other places such as Ordóñez Lasso Avenue, Vista Linda and Misicata. All residential neighborhoods with developments and condominiums.
Criminals have arrived twice in the urbanization where Juan Astudillo lives, in the Vista Linda sector. The first time was in June.
“They found out the schedules of the people and the time change of the guard. They arrived in a vehicle (without license plates), that looked like a car of a neighbor,” he said. That time they took money, jewelry and valuables from two houses.
Given that, they reinforced security, changed guards and multiplied controls. That prevented the assailants from entering again on Saturday, September 17th.
After the frustrated attempt, the criminals entered another urbanization in the area. They stayed there for less than an hour and robbed four houses.
“The level of insecurity is worrying. You no longer feel calm, it seems that there are people behind you, you begin to distrust people, even the ones you usually see,” laments Astudillo.
“These are things that we have not been used to and we have to act on that,” added Governor Abad, to whom neighborhood leaders and other social sectors demand answers.
Action plans of the Government and Municipality
According to Abad, in a last meeting with the Police, responsibilities and deadlines were established to dismantle the gangs dedicated to the different types of robberies. “We are acting from the prevention, reaction and investigation fronts, to dismantle these gangs.”
The Government’s lines of action against crime are:
- Reinforce patrols.
- Step up controls.
- Execute arms, ammunition and explosives control operations.
The Municipality of Cuenca also has a security plan, which consists of:
- More patrols by the municipal police.
- Delivery of equipment and vehicles for the National Police.
- Provision of inputs such as community alarms and security cameras.
- Training in prevention and safety in neighborhoods.