Chased a thief down today, just your average day in Quito town

So yeah, that happened. Not that big a deal, the guy was much smaller than me, and very obviously didn’t have a weapon. And he stole a daypack from a kid! Yeah, seriously, a 10 year old kid waiting outside a music school. Now when muggers are stealing kids school bags, you know something is wrong!

I chased the guy a few blocks, kept up with him but wasn’t gaining (I’m not 25 any more…), but then a couple of other people saw me chasing him and joined in the pursuit. The guy saw this and dropped the bag, which was good enough for me. Not really interested in needing to fight the guy over it, nor of having to go through any formal arrest process if any police had been nearby. Just give the kid back his bag you asshole!

A friend of mine (not a kid) was mugged a few weeks back, in broad daylight in one of the main entertainment and business areas in Quito, Plaza Foch. But Sunday afternoon at 4pm, the area is a bit of a ghost town, thanks in no small part to Ecuadorian president Correa’s laws that forbid alcohol sales on Sundays, unless in a restaurant. So whereas in most other countries a similar type of area would be buzzing with people in a Sunday afternoon, enjoying a few drinks before being back to work the next day, in Quito the area’s ripe for a casual mugging, often of someone walking home after watching a football game in one of the bar/restaurants open early for the games from Europe.

It’s bad enough walking home after your team has lost, but to then be mugged on a pleasantly sunny Sunday afternoon… again, something’s just not right about the situation.

I also read of an expat woman in Quito having her bag snatched by a couple of guys on a motorbike. This was something not uncommon during my two years in Nairobi in Kenya (or “Nai-robbery”, as it’s nicknamed). But I didn’t think things were so bad in Ecuador. They probably aren’t quite as bad, but these few incidents suggest things are not necessarily improving that much, as the local politicians would want you to believe.

There’s plenty of law enforcement in Quito, you can see that late on a Friday or Saturday night, with police out in brute force in the Plaza Foch area. But they’re more interested in enforcing the bar closing hours than protecting people, clustering in large groups outside of the most popular bars rather than spread in twos or threes around the surrounding area. I’ve seen up to 15 or more police, simply congregating outside Bungalow 6 from around 2am many a night (closing time is 3am), with 20 or 30 more in the main Plaza Foch plaza. Meanwhile two or three blocks away, you need to take a taxi at the risk of being mugged. It seems that somewhere up the chain of command, they’re being very selective of what they choose to “protect”.

Again, something’s just not right about the situation.

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