Monday, March 28, 2011

Crime In Cuenca

Looking out my window, there was my neighbor standing with no shirt on and barely in what was left of his pants. He had one lonely shoe in his hand as he gazed up at me hopefully, asking, "Let me in, will you? They took my keys, too."

Crime in Cuenca is unlike anything I've experienced while living in other countries. Crime in Japan was most likely to be some kind of blackmail or extortion. In China, most of the crime centered around smuggling goods or information. In Europe, while I did have my bag snatched at the Paris North Train station, for the most part the biggest risk was messing up the currency swaps and overpaying gleeful storekeepers. In Cuenca, they want it all.

I'm much more informed about crime in Cuenca since last year when I was robbed at knifepoint, but I'm not sure the additional awareness is a blessing. On one hand, I know that if I'm held up, I probably won't be hurt if I just give them everything they want. On the other hand, the thieves here are a bit more expansive about what they want.

In the US, while people might steal some designer shoes off your feet, for the most part they are just after your money or your cell phone. Your clothes are pretty safe. In Ecuador, I've heard numerous tales of people losing their wallets along with their hats, scarves, jackets, gloves, belts, and so on. One man actually caught his thief because the man was wearing his jacket and distinctive hand-tooled leather belt later.

I don't know what motivates that. Yes, you can make the extreme poverty case ... to a point. There's a greed and envy point to be made, too. Yet to me, coming out of a robbery half-naked is just adding insult to injury. Thoughts? What are the weirdest things you've heard of being taken in a crime in Cuenca (or anywhere else)?

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