A security guard protects the streets of a neighborhood in Guayaquil, Ecuador. EFE/ Mauricio Torres

Residents of Ecuadorian city wall neighborhoods off amid rampant crime

By Cristina Bazan

Security guards protect the streets of a neighborhood in Guayaquil, Ecuador. EFE/ Mauricio Torres

Guayaquil, Ecuador Jul 19 (EFE).- Streets closed off with gates. Security cameras. Alarms. Private guards.

A security guard protects the streets of a neighborhood in Guayaquil, Ecuador. EFE/ Mauricio Torres

Neighborhoods of Ecuador’s largest metropolis are increasingly becoming fortresses, as residents seek to protect themselves from the widespread violent crime plaguing city streets.

Those security measures come amid a context in which an average of seven people were killed per day in the Guayaquil metro area in the first quarter of 2023, nearly double the rate registered in the same period of last year, according to police figures.

Incidents of extortion and kidnapping also have been growing at an alarming clip.

The current unprecedented level of violent crime in Ecuador exploded in the wake of the pandemic and is attributed by police to a war among drug gangs.

“It’s regrettable we have to close ourselves off and the criminals are outside, but there was no other way for us to feel safe,” Johana Torres, president of the Samanes 1 neighborhood on Guauayquil’s north side, told Efe.

Six gates were installed in December around that neighborhood, home to more than 300 families, to prevent non-residents from entering between 7 pm and 6 am.

Local residents say that security measure has boosted their quality of life and are seeking permission to close off the neighborhood 24 hours a day.

Torres said the gates were needed after an average of 12 crimes were reported daily last year.

Residents initially had sought to protect themselves by putting bars on their windows, yet they still did not feel safe.

“If they didn’t break into your house, they robbed someone, beat someone up. Cars got stolen. All kinds of stuff happened,” she said.


Residents of Guayaquil’s Nueva Kennedy neighborhood also felt at the mercy of criminals and in June started installing gates on nearby streets.

The goal now is to have the entire neighborhood sealed off in the coming months.

“Since the start of last year, we’ve unsuccessfully approached the police (about the crime problems). The cases rose and rose until we were left defenseless,” neighborhood leader Francisco Torres told Efe.

“We got the idea to protect ourselves with a comprehensive enclosure that didn’t affect residents and allows us to walk freely on the streets once again.”

Armed robberies, shootings and the extortion of stores led the neighborhood’s 600 residents to install 17 gates around its perimeter.

According to prosecutors, 1,603 cases of extortion were reported in Guayaquil between January and June of this year, compared to 1,265 cases in all of 2022 and 425 in all of 2021.

Robberies of homes and retail outlets also soared to 2,069 in the first half of 2023, compared to 1,486 for all of 2022.

Amid the worsening crime problem, residents say walling themselves off is the only alternative.

“We want to be able to go out to the store to buy something, to leave our clothing at the laundromat, basic daily stuff that we can’t do anymore,” the Nueva Kennedy leader said.


Fernando Carrion, an urban planner and public safety expert, said Guayaquil now is taking steps similar to those taken by other cities with high rates of violent crime.

“These cities are in a process of bunkerization. The idea is to close yourself off and turn yourself into a bunker so no one can enter,” he told Efe.

“How can you enter one of these places? First of all, with a passport, which is an identification; secondly, with a visa, because you have to ask for a person’s authorization to enter; and thirdly, going through customs, which is basically a body search they do before you can enter. We’re creating a series of borders within cities,” Carrion said.

These measures are “a natural reaction amid government inefficiency” but do not solve the crime problem, he said.

“What also happens with these neighborhoods in that the public space enters a process of privatization whereby the city tends to disappear. And you solve that with urban policies and public safety,” Carrion added.

After two violent weekends with more than 10 homicides, Guayaquil Mayor Aquiles Alvarez and Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso met on July 11 and announced that more police would be deployed to that metropolis’ south side, which they described as the main crime hotspot nationwide. EFE