Residents of Ecuador’s largest city are putting up walls in their neighborhoods to protect them from criminals, according to a report.
“It’s sad that we have to close ourselves and the criminals are out, but there was no other way for us to feel safe,” said Johanna Torres, a resident and president of a neighborhood in Guayaquil. told news outlet EFE.
An average of seven people died in Guayaquil per day in the first quarter of 2023, double the rate during the same period last year, the outlet reported. Police say violence erupted after the pandemic and drug gang wars took to the streets.
Residents in some neighborhoods are turning to security gates to keep criminals out, including in the Samanes 1 neighborhood of Torres on the city’s north side. In December, six gates were installed around the neighborhood to protect the more than 300 families living there and prevent outsiders from entering the area between 7pm and 6am.
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“If they didn’t get into your house, they robbed somebody, beat somebody up. Cars were stolen. All kinds of stuff happened,” Torres said. He said that before the gate was installed in the neighborhood, there were an average of 12 crimes a day.
An urban planner and public security expert told EFE that Guayaquil is working to “bunkerize” law-abiding citizens with security gates to protect them from criminals, as in other nearby high-crime cities.
“These cities are in the process of bunkerization. The idea is to close yourself off and turn into a bunker so no one can get in,” Fernando Carrion told the outlet.
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“How do you get into one of these places? First, with a passport, which is an identity; second, with a visa, because you have to ask someone for permission to enter; and third, going through customs, which is basically what they do before you enter. We’re creating a series of borders within cities.”
He called the new security measures “a natural response amid government incompetence”.
Extortion cases in the city have exploded in recent years, with prosecutors recording 1,603 such cases between January and June, compared to 1,265 in 2022 and just 425 in 2021, the outlet reported.
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Robberies targeting both homes and retail stores have also skyrocketed this year – already surpassing all robberies in 2022.
Last month, residents of Guayaquil’s Nueva Kennedy neighborhood installed 17 gates on its outskirts to protect the more than 600 residents and families living in the area.
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“Since the beginning of last year, we have unsuccessfully approached the police. [about the crime problems]. The cases increased and increased until we were left defenseless,” Nueva Kennedy leader Francisco Torres told EFE.
“We came up with the idea of protecting ourselves with a composite wall that doesn’t affect residents and allows us to walk the streets freely again.”