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Crime-weary Ecuador residents forced to build walls to keep out criminals

Residents of Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest city, are installing gates and walls to protect residents from exploding crime rates, according to a report.

Residents of Ecuador's largest city are walling themselves into their neighborhoods to protect against criminals who are running rampant in the city, according to a report.

"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, a resident and president of a neighborhood in Guayaquil, told news outlet EFE.

An average of seven people a day were killed in Guayaquil in the first quarter of 2023, which is double the rate during the same time period last year, the outlet reported. Police say violence exploded following the pandemic and as drug gang wars erupted on the streets. 

Residents in certain neighborhoods are turning to security gates to keep criminals away, including in Torres' Samanes 1 neighborhood on the north side of the city. Six gates were installed around the neighborhood in December to protect the more than 300 families who live there and prevent outsiders from entering the area between the hours of 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. 

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"If they didn’t break into your house, they robbed someone, beat someone up. Cars got stolen. All kinds of stuff happened," Torres said. She said the neighborhood averaged 12 crimes a day before the gates were installed. 

An urban planner and public safety expert told EFE that Guayaquil is working to "bunkerize" with security gates to protect law-abiding citizens from criminals, similar to other nearby cities that have high 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," Fernando Carrion told the outlet.

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"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," he continued. 

He called the new safety measures "a natural reaction amid government inefficiency."

The outlet reported that 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 cases for all of 2022 and only 425 in 2021. 

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Robberies that target both homes and retail stores have also skyrocketed this year – already surpassing all of 2022's robberies.

Last month, residents in Guayaquil's Nueva Kennedy neighborhood installed 17 gates around its outskirts to protect the more than 600 residents and families who live in the area. 

"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," Nueva Kennedy 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."

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