Crime in Cuenca
Cuenca is developing a stronger crime reputation. How bad is the crime?
Peter, I don't know if I'd go so far as to say that Cuenca has a crime reputation. Yes, there's crime, and yes, it seems to be increasing year over year.
But compared to Quito and, especially, Guayaquil, Cuenca's crime is nothing.
People aren't kidnapped and held for ransom, as happens in Guayaquil. There aren't any home invasions (perhaps a few, but not even as many as occur on the coast).
There's been a crime wave of sorts along the Tomebamba river, where guys with knives are stealing watches and cellphones (and cash). But that's really about the extent of it. There are some bars down along the river, and these guys wait for patrons to leave late at night, and then accost them.
Overall, in terms of safety, I'd much rather be here in Cuenca than in either Quito or Guayaquil. Of course, the dumber the behaviour (walking along the river at 2 a.m., walking along a downtown sidestreet after 9 or 10 at night, flashing jewelry or cash, etc.), the more likely that you'll be victimized.
Stay alert, stay conscious of what's going on around you (which isn't always easy in crowds or when you're overwhelmed by all the old buildings in El Centro), and stay under the radar (don't look too much like the cliche gringo), and you should be fine.
We've been here for almost 3 years now (as of the end of December 2012), and we haven't been robbed, or even seen anything going down. We know people who've been robbed, but they were walking down a secluded street while talking on the phone, had their hands full of bags, or were preoccupied.
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