Crime in Chile and the United States

The American Embassy in Santiago posted a security message for U.S. citizens on its web site on July 7, citing recent press reports about increased crime in Santiago.  The message contains the usual suggestions for avoiding crime anywhere in the world, such as walking only in well-lit areas, not leaving personal belongings out of sight and not displaying jewelry or cameras and carrying only limited amounts of cash. There is a section on car jackings and vehicle robbery, suggesting motorists “leave a gap between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you” when stopping at traffic lights.

The Embassy post also notes that telephone scams are common, and that thieves have sometimes gained entry to homes posing as police or utility company representatives and in some cases used a child pretending to be lost.

Chilean Interior Ministry Jorge Burgos was asked about the advisory and he responded that the U.S. Embassy had always posted such messages.  Then he added, “I would recommend to Chilean citizens who go to the United States also take care in certain places, particularly in establishments near university campuses, where there are usually individuals who shoot and have killed people. You have to be careful where you go in the United States as well.”

Point taken.  For the record, other foreign governments also post safety and security advisories for their citizens travelling to other countries and the British Foreign Office has a similar message on its web site for Chile, instructing visitors to “book a taxi in advance, rather than hailing one from the street” and not to put any valuables in the storage compartments of buses and coaches.

And to put things into some perspective–the U.S. Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) has the following to say in its Chile 2014 Crime and Safety report:

The security environment is generally safe, and there is comparatively less serious violent crime experienced in Chile than in other Latin American countries. Pickpocketing, telephonic scams, vehicular theft, and residential burglaries are far more common than violent crimes like express kidnappings, kidnapping for ransom, and random shootings, which rarely occur.

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