Crime and Security in Vilcabamba Ecuador

Posted on October 7, 2016 • Filed under: Ecuador, Ecuador Emergency

2016/ The text below is a copy of Jim Braman’s and Beatriz Benavides-Hilgert’s post in the Vilcabamba Bulletin Facebook Group. they have done such tremendous work and because this post is so comprehensive and contains phone numbers, names and other pieces of information that might be useful in the future (I hope not !), we re-publish it here in, a more permanent and better searchable place than Facebook


The recent wave of violent crime began almost two years ago with two back to back kidnapping-extortion crimes. This was a real wake up call for all of us. We have had crime waves before, but this one has spawned national concern, and it has been the source of a deeper, broader effort toward greater security in Vilcabamba. When it comes to overall security, there are many avenues and/or layers that make up the whole. There is prevention, intervention, and justice, some of these overlap, but all three are important.

Concerning justice, the recent push for improving our connections with government officials came to a crescendo that culminated in our meeting with the governor of the province, and then Correa’s visit. Now, several people from the core group responsible for creating the new governmental connections are taking some time off, and in the meantime they have asked Beatriz Benavides-Hilgert and I to continue the momentum we have created as a group, and start getting more organized in the other aspects of security. We invite others to help us expand the ‘core group’, because in reality, everyone of us is ‘core’. Everyone one of us has the power to increase or decrease security in the community.

A lot of work has gone into getting us where we are, but we have a long way to go. That said, we are already seeing some of the promised changes happening. Prosecution of violent crimes is being handled by more serious prosecutors than before, and the supreme court recently upheld a lower court decision that was appealed by the perpetrators who kidnapped and extorted two Vilcabamba residents; they will stay in prison for many years to come.

While the meetings with gov’t officials have been mostly concerned with justice, and prosecution, there are also some new governmental efforts toward prevention and intervention. One of the programs involves a special operations unit of the national police assigned indefinitely to Malacatos and Vilcabamba. Their focus is on organized elements of violent crime. They are an undercover unit and as such, we are not privy to more specific information, except to say that they are NOT here to interrogate and harass foreigners and restaurants.

Additionally, Vilcabamba has been assigned a special local policeman to be a community liaison. Mr. Manuel Chamba is our new community policeman, and although he currently speaks mostly Spanish, he invites foreigners to help him learn English. His job is to build community security through better communication. That means better communication between law enforcement and the public, but more than that, within each barrio as well. He is very enthusiastic, and spends a lot of time going from barrio to barrio introducing himself and participating in barrio activities. He was sent here because he has had success bringing other communities together. He believes, and I agree, that the after putting up whatever bars you want on your windows, and locks on your doors, the core principle of good security is good relationships with neighbors. Find out how secure your Ecuadorian neighbors feel, and ask in an open, ‘non-agenda’ way, what their advice is to foreigners regarding security. A little humility and listening goes a long way. Read Full Post


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