Monday, April 23, 2007

Crime in Argentina

I found this article produced in Jan 2007 by the OSAC (Overseas Security Advisory Council) that summarizes the current crime situation in Argentina quite nicely.

Having lived here for around 12 of the last 18months I find myself agreeing with practically everything the report states. Here are a few of the most pertinent sections:
Traffic accidents are still the primary threat to private sector safety in Argentina, especially in Buenos Aires. Pedestrians should be vigilant when crossing streets and remember to look both ways, even if the street is designated one-way. Traffic laws are routinely disobeyed and vehicles often travel at excessive speeds. Recently published statistics report that over 7,500 deaths occurred in Argentina in 2006 due to traffic accidents.

Crime is a serious problem in Argentina that can be managed with common sense precautions.

How to Avoid Becoming a Victim


Carry no more than US $100-200 or 300-400 pesos. Criminals in Argentina frequently resort to violence if they perceive a victim is being uncooperative or if the target does not have anything worth stealing. The people most likely to be attacked or beaten are those without any money. If confronted, offer no resistance and immediately hand over everything demanded.

Do not wear Rolexes, or other flashy or expensive jewelry that draws attention.
Women should safeguard their purses while walking and when eating in restaurants or cafes. Criminals are often well dressed and crime can occur anytime during the day at any location. Use common sense and remain vigilant.

Travel in groups when possible. Always stay in the well lit, populated areas and avoid parks after dark.

Be alert to pick pocketing in tourist and shopping areas. Do not flash large amounts of cash, or carry expensive looking bags, briefcases, or laptop cases in public.

Do not carry all of your important documents in your wallet or purse. Carry a photocopy of your passport.

Use ATM machines located in public places like the hotel, shopping mall, or event venue. If the booth has a door, make sure it closes behind you.

If you are in a restaurant or other business that gets robbed, follow the instructions of the robbers and hand over valuables on demand.

Beware of the "mustard on the back scam." Unknown to you, a liquid is squirted on your back. After a few steps, someone, often a middle-aged woman, will inform you that you have something on your back and offer to help clean it off. Meanwhile, she or an accomplice picks your pockets. This scam is common in tourist areas such as San Telmo, La Boca, 9 de Julio, Recoleta, and Florida Street. Fortunately, this is one of the least confrontational crimes, just say "NO" and walk away.

Pay with exact change as much as possible. If you pay for a small item with a large bill, you risk being shortchanged or getting counterfeit in change. Only take pesos as change.

Use credit cards only at the hotel and major stores and restaurants. Watch your bills carefully for fraudulent charges.


"Remises" (hired car and driver) are the best public transportation.
They charge by the kilometer and are reasonably priced. Hotels, many restaurants, and shopping centers can call one from an established service.

Radio taxis are the next best choice. Taxis are black and yellow in the Capital, and white with blue lettering in the Province.

Avoid black and yellow taxis with the word MANDATARIA on the door.
These taxis are rented on a daily or hourly basis and are often involved in criminal acts.

Do not take rides offered by people on the street or outside an airport.

Depending on circumstances, visitors in need of taxi services should either call for a remise or taxi, take one from an established stand, or hail one on the street (but not in front of a bank), in this respective order.

Use the seatbelts, lock the doors, and keep the windows up. Do not place your purse or other valuables on the seats in plain view from the outside or unattended.

Subways, buses, and trains are safe but watch out for pickpockets and be ready for work stoppages.

Watch your bags at airports, bus, and ship terminals.


blaxjax said...

Just read this post. The advice is good, and much would apply to any city. I think the "just hand over the money" advice is best. So don't carry too much with you! However, the tone of the article implies that Buenos Aires is particularly unsafe. It isn't. The bits of BA that most visitors are likely to visit are heavily policed, almost literally, there's a policeman on every corner. Also relevant-

-it's a 24 hour city. There's always someone walking their dog, people walking home, people popping out for a pack of ciggies, cafes open, etc. All this activity makes the place feel safe

-Alcohol The Argentines are not big drinkers. You never find the alcohol fueled disorder of a British Saturday night. Except maybe at football matches and political demos!

-IMHO, the level of petty crime-bag snatching, pick pocketing, street drug dealing, mobile phone theft, all that seems to be incredibly low.

I've been coming here for a couple of years now, and have never felt threatened, and never had anything stolen. Day to day, it's as safe as say, London. For petty crime, it's much safer than say, Barcelona.

The locals here seem to think that this is a dangerous city. But the truth is that most portenos, for economic reasons, don't travel much, so don't have much to compare it with. Be careful, definitely. But basically, this is a relaxed, safe city...

Perpetual_Traveller said...

I think the key is "The bits that most visitors are likely visit are heavily policed".

Alcohol induced violence is actually pretty common in the provincies of BsAs (check out the program "Policias en accion")...but 99% ot tourists will never be exposed to this.

I will disagree with you on levels of petty crime, though I wouldn't say they are particularly high either.

It's actually very hard to get a real grip on crime rates. If you believe the press here Argentina is in the middle of a violent crime wave, this I think is the root cause of why so many locals seem to think the city is dangerous....togethor with the fact that (as you point out) most Argies don't really have any experience outside of their country.