Medellín Robbery – Jeff describes his experience being robbed at knifepoint in Laureles and how he replaced stolen items without a cedula.
On Saturday night, I went to dinner with a friend at Mondongo’s in Laureles. And after dinner I walked back along La 70 (Setenta) in Laureles to the Estadio metro station to take the metro home, as I have done many times in the past.
La 70 is a busy street on Saturday nights and there were many people along this street as I walked. While I was walking on the sidewalk, I passed a motorcycle sitting next to the sidewalk with two people on it.
As I was walking by, the passenger jumped off the motorcycle and immediately threatened me with a knife and asked for my cell phone and wallet. I know you should never resist, so I quickly gave the thief my cell phone and wallet and he immediately jumped on the motorcycle and the two young men were gone.
This happened so fast and several people were nearby. And this happened in only about 30 seconds or so.
A Colombian who witnessed this robbery asked if I was OK and if he should call the police. I was shaky and in shock but happy that I wasn’t injured. However, I realized there was probably nothing the police could do at this time. So, I told this Colombian not to call the police. Also, I didn’t really get a good look at the thief, as I was looking more at his knife.
So, I walked a few more blocks to the metro and returned home. The thief got my cell phone and in my wallet that was stolen were my cedula, a debit card, a Civica card and a small amount of Colombian cash.
Is Laureles Safe?
Laureles-Estadio is considered by some to be one of the safest neighborhoods in Medellín. But the robbery statistics in Laureles-Estadio do not support this claim of Laureles being one of the safest neighborhoods in Medellín.
Laureles-Estadio has a higher crime rate in terms of robberies than in other neighborhoods in the city. And my experience demonstrates that robberies can happen even on busy streets. Also, Laureles has many streets that are not very busy where it can be more risky to walk, particularly at night.
An article in March 2019 in the El Colombiano newspaper (in Spanish) reported robberies statistics in Medellín for 2017 and 2018. Reported robberies of persons in 2017 and 2018 were most common in:
- La Candelaria (El Centro) robberies of persons – 6,548 in 2017 and 7,047 in 2018
- Laureles-Estadio robberies of persons – 2,140 in 2017 and 2,826 in 2018
- El Poblado robberies of persons – 2,001 in 2017 and 2,480 in 2018.
Reported robberies of businesses in 2017 and 2018 were most common in La Candelaria (El Centro) followed by El Poblado and Laureles-Estadio:
- La Candelaria (El Centro) robberies of businesses – 1,147 in 2017 and 1,264 in 2018
- El Poblado robberies of businesses – 536 in 2017 and 543 in 2018.
- Laureles-Estadio robberies of businesses – 503 in 2017 and 469 in 2018
Reported robberies of homes in 2017 and 2018 were most common in Laureles-Estadio followed by El Poblado and Belén:
- Laureles-Estadio robberies of homes – 201 in 2017 and 241 in 2018
- El Poblado robberies of homes – 181 in 2017 and 228 in 2018.
- Belén robberies of homes – 199 in 2017 and 222 in 2018
So, Laureles-Estadio is actually in the top three comunas in Medellín in terms of robberies of persons, robberies of businesses and robberies of homes.
Medellín Robbery – My Experience Replacing Stolen Items
Banks and mobile providers like Claro will typically want to see a cedula. But I discovered it is possible to replace stolen debit cards and get new cell phone service without a physical cedula.
After being robbed on Saturday night, the next day on Sunday, I went shopping and I bought a new cell phone. And I went to the Claro office in Premium Plaza mall with the new cell phone with a photocopy of my stolen cedula and my passport.
But the staff at Claro said they couldn’t do anything. I talked to a manager and couldn’t even get them to deactivate the IMEI of the stolen cell phone. They said I needed to go to a police station for a denuncia (police report) and then get a contraseña (a temporary ID) or a new cedula.
So, I went to the nearest police station from Premium Plaza mall located in El Poblado a few blocks from Parque Poblado. But at this police station they said they didn’t do denuncias for foreigners. And they said I had to go to the Fiscilia office in Barrio Caribe to file a denuncia but that it was closed on Sunday.
When I returned home, I looked on the Fiscilia website and found that I could file a denuncia at the police station in Sabaneta near where I live.
Monday – Getting a Replacement Civica Card
The Civica card was the easiest thing to replace of the items that were stolen. I happened to have a meeting at Mayorca mall on Monday morning.
After this meeting, I went to the Medellín Metro Civica office at the Itagüí metro station that is next to Mayorca mall. Note this Civica office has moved, it used to be on the station side near Mayorca mall but in late 2019 moved to the other side of the metro station.
I stood in a short line for about 15 minutes and was able to get a replacement Civica for free with my passport. The Civica office accepts several types of ID’s including a Colombian cedula, passport, driver’s license or university photo ID.
Monday and Tuesday – Filing Denuncias
Also, on Monday I went to the police station in Sabaneta and filed a denuncia (police report) for the stolen cedula and debit card. The police officer said that with a copy of my cedula and the denuncia, I should be able to get a replacement debit card and also restore cell phone service from Claro on a new phone.
In addition, the police officer in Sabaneta said that to report the stolen cell phone, this needed to be done at the police station in Laureles.
So, on Tuesday when I was in Laureles for another purpose, I went to the Laureles police station and filed a denuncia for the stolen phone. The police officer in Laureles said stolen phones were the most commonly stolen items but that he believed many cell phone thefts and robberies were not reported.
Tuesday – Getting a Replacement Debit Card
On Tuesday I went to my bank Colpatria with a photocopy of my cedula, the denuncia and my passport. With these three things I was able to get a replacement debit card in about 45 minutes.
Tuesday and Wednesday – Restoring Cell Phone Service with Claro
On Tuesday, I went to the Claro office in Los Molinos mall. I went with a photocopy of my cedula, the denuncia, my passport, my latest Claro postpago mobile service bill, new cell phone purchase receipt and my passport. Claro also ran a credit check and asked three questions about my credit to verify my identity
With all of these documents and a credit check, I was able to get Claro to deactivate the IMEI in the stolen cell phone and give me a new SIM that would have my old number. And they told me the new SIM would be activated in 3-4 hours.
But after 4 hours, the new SIM was not activated. So, I returned to Claro on Wednesday and they were able to activate the SIM in my new cell phone.
Getting a Replacement Cedula
Over the past four days, I bought a new cell phone, went to three police stations, went to Claro three times, went to my bank twice and went to a Medellín Metro Civica office. And I was successful in to getting replacements for my stolen cell phone, debit card and Civica card. This took much more time than I anticipated.
If you Cedula de Extranjeria is stolen or lost, Migracion Colombia has a streamlined process for obtaining a duplicate cedula.
To obtain a duplicate Cedula de Extranjeria, go to the Migracion page to request a duplicate cedula. This website page asks for your cedula number. And after entering your cedula number you validate your name and enter your email address and the city in Colombia where you want to pick the duplicate cedula.
This website then goes to a payment page where you can print out a receipt to pay 196,000 pesos at Banco Occidente. Or you can pay online from a Colombian bank account. When I used this duplicate cedula process to obtain a duplicate cedula, I paid the same day at Banco Occidente. And I received an email from Migracion saying that the duplicate cedula would be ready to pick up in about three business days.
20 Medellín Safety Tips for Expats
Medellín is generally considered safe to visit if you use common sense and take some precautions. There are a number of basic precautions you can take to be vigilant about your personal safety and improve your security while in Medellín and Colombia.
Here are 20 safety tips in no particular order that should improve your security and greatly reduce your risk of being a crime victim in Medellín:
1. Never resist if you are a robbery victim. Many homicide victims in Medellín resisted robberies. It’s not worth risking your life for some money and/or possessions. Don’t try to be a hero. This is the most important takeaway from my experience of being robbed. Never resist and give the thief what he wants.
2. Don’t flash your cellphones, cameras, jewelry or money around. In addition, pickpocketing and purse snatching is common in some public places. Distraction is frequently the strategy, so be alert and keep an eye on your belongings. Also, be aware of your surroundings when using your cellphone, as cellphones are the most commonly stolen items in the city.
3. Be careful in El Centro. Chaotic El Centro has the highest crime rates in the city. Street crime in El Centro is quite common. And there are areas in El Centro that are magnets for drunks, drug addicts and homeless people. After dark, El Centro becomes even more dangerous.
4. Be careful on the Medellín metro. As my experience demonstrates, it’s possible to be a victim on the Medellín metro by pickpockets during rush hour that you may not even realize until you arrive at your destination.
5. Stay away from drugs, sex tourism and illegal activities. Participating in shady activities increases your likelihood of becoming a crime victim and historically many of the foreigner homicides in Medellín have been related to these activities.
6. Dress conservatively and lose the shorts and flip-flops. Try not to be such an obvious foreigner tourist that can make you a target. See how typical Colombians dress. An expat in shorts and flip-flops speaking English loudly on an iPhone is likely to attract some unwanted attention.
7. Use ATMs in malls and grocery stores. Avoid ATMs on the street or in areas with few people around. And be conscious of who might be watching you.
8. Avoid bad neighborhoods. The poorest neighborhoods in Medellín like Popular, Santa Cruz, Manrique, San Javier and 12 de Octubre are not really places for expats, even during the day unless you are part of an organized tour like a graffiti tour.
9. Never leave your drink unattended. It takes almost no time for someone to drug your drink with something like Scopolamine (aka Devil’s Breath), which can wipe the memory of its victims and can affect the ability to resist criminal aggression.
10. Take care even in El Poblado and Laureles. Street crime is possible everywhere in Medellín. El Poblado and Laureles are touted by some as the safest part of the city. But robbery statistics have been increasing in El Poblado and Laureles. This is likely due to criminals targeting the wealthiest areas of Medellín where most foreign tourists stay.
In addition, take care in Parque Lleras, which has been experiencing problems with street crime, drugs and prostitution resulting in an increased police presence. Also, take care in Laureles-Estadio, which also has been experiencing increases in robbery statistics.
11. Don’t carry lots of cash with you. Only carry what you need for the day or night with you.
12. Put your bag, purse or backpack in front of you. In busy areas like El Centro it’s common for snatching of bags, purses or backpacks.
13. Late at night call for a taxi. During the day, hailing a taxi on the street will likely be fine. But at night calling for a taxi or using an app like Cabify is safer and will ensure you are getting a legitimate driver.
14. Don’t walk alone at night. It’s safer in groups. And if walking alone, stick to well-lit streets where there are plenty of people.
15. Try to keep a low profile. If you keep a low profile you are less likely to become a target. And never give out information about where you live to strangers.
16. Watch out for motorcycles. A disproportionate number of robberies and crimes in Medellín take place by criminals on motorcycles due to the ability for a quick getaway. So, take care brandishing phones in taxis or on the street as you may attract unwanted attention from a criminal on a motorcycle.
17. Don’t carry your passport with you. Carry a copy of your passport with another ID like a driver’s license. Only bring ATM and credit cards which you plan to use. Leave your passport and other cards locked up in a safe location.
18. Don’t invite strangers to your home or hotel. And if you are meeting someone you don’t know, always do this in a public area like a mall, restaurant or café.
19. Change locks and buy a security door. When you are living in a place long-term in Medellín always change the locks. No telling who else will have keys. And for even better piece of mind change the door to a security door reinforced with steel inside and around the frame. But make sure to get permission from the owner if you rent before replacing a door.
I travel often so I bought security doors for two apartments I have lived in. Thieves are looking for doors that are easy to break into and many apartments in Medellín have front doors that are quite easy to break into.
20. No Dar Papaya. Don’t give papaya. This is a famous quote in Colombia, which means essentially don’t put yourself in a position where you become vulnerable to be taken advantage of. Many of the above tips are ways to “No Dar Papaya”.
These common-sense safety tips apply not only to Medellín but also generally apply to other cities in Colombia and other countries in Latin America.
Medellin Guru’s Safety and Security Series
Safety is the biggest concern of foreigners visiting Colombia or planning to move to Colombia. So, we have a series of 15 popular articles about safety and security in Colombia:
- Is Colombia Safe? Colombia Security and Safety Tips
- Is Medellín Safe? Medellín Security and Safety Tips
- What are the Safest Neighborhoods in Medellín and the Aburrá Valley
- Medellín Robbery: Expat Experience Being Robbed at Knifepoint
- Colombia Gun Laws: Is it Legal to Have a Gun in Colombia?
- Scopolamine: The Realities of Devil’s Breath in Colombia
- Colombia Protests: Tips for Foreigners to Stay Safe During Protests
- Is Bogotá Safe? Bogotá Security and Safety Tips
- Is Cartagena Safe? Cartagena Security and Safety Tips
- Is Cali Safe? Cali, Colombia Security and Safety Tips
- Is Santa Marta Safe? Santa Marta Security and Safety Tips
- Is Pereira Safe? Pereira, Colombia Security and Safety Tips
- Is Manizales Safe? Manizales Security and Safety Tips
- Is Bucaramanga Safe? Bucaramanga Security and Safety Tips
- Is Barranquilla Safe? Barranquilla Security and Safety Tips
The Bottom Line: Medellín Robbery – Expat Experience Being Robbed at Knifepoint
NEVER RESIST if you are a victim of a robbery in Medellín or other city in Colombia. Things can be replaced and there is no reason to risk your life for a few possessions.
The bottom line is that if you take the precautions we recommend above with our safety tips, your risk of being a victim of crime should be greatly reduced. However, robberies are possible anywhere – even on busy streets or in more wealthy neighborhoods.
After living nearly nine years in Colombia, my Medellín robbery experience on Saturday was the first time I have been robbed by threat of force. Also, I was a victim of a pickpocket on the Medellín metro a few years ago during rush hour resulting in the theft of my cell phone.
However, I experienced more violence when living in the U.S. For example, I was physically assaulted in my home in Dallas during a robbery. And I was robbed at gunpoint in Los Angeles. Also, I was robbed at knifepoint in Baltimore.
Sign up for the Free Medellin Guru Newsletter – You can see all of the previous Medellin Guru weekly email newsletters and sign up here.
Editors note: updated on January 27, 2020 to add the process to obtain a duplicate cedula to replace a stolen cedula.
Sorry to here about your bad experience. Great info as usual.
Thanks for sharing. Glad you are OK and sorry you had this experience. We were recently on LA 70 and saw a similar robbery take place by some youngsters on a moto.
I live nearby 70 and stay far away from it much like parque lleras. These locations as far as I can see are meccas for thieves to size up victims. If one must go there, go and leave in pairs. A word to the wise.
Glad you’re ok. My experience was being robbed in a crowd watching a local holiday celebration in Cartagena. They spray bubbly soap in your eyes so you can’t see, feels like a game/fun but isn’t. One guy grabbed into my privates to get my phone! He missed luckily. Police and “security” witnessed it, watching, and did NOTHING.
Wonder how they would respond to a gringo flooring their attackers. Not advocating violence, just curious what the threshold is for intervening.
Jeff. I am so sad to hear about your experience which has happened to me and many of my friends. Sooner or later we all become victims no matter how saavy we are. The key to surviving a robbery to give the thieves what they want. All they want is to cop and go for lack of a better expression. Our lives are meaningless to these criminals. Everything can be replaced except for our lives. The city has become more dangerous over the past few years for a myriad of reasons. Gangs. Migrants. Refugees to name a few. No neighborhood no latter how affluent is immune.
You have provided good advice. I pray things improve here. We really need more police and army on the streets.
I highly recommend that everyone have a tailor install a security pocket in your waistband. Put your valuable cards and money in there and leave a dummy set on your pocket. Any tailor will do this for about 5000 COP. Do it in all your pants that you might wear…. It promotes a secure feeling.
I’ve thought about asking for this before but I’m not sure how to phrase it in Spanish. ‘un bolsillo adentro?’ jaja
Bolsa de seguridad
PS. I wear knee high pressure socks. You can easily put cards and cash there and it stays there. I don’t do the dummy wallet enough, but I’m going to dust it off.
I’m glad it wasn’t any worse Jeff. All of these tips are important to protecting yourself. I’d like to add one more thing to your #16 point about motorcycle thieves that often gets overlooked. In the evening when I’m in the city I always walk the opposite of oncoming traffic. Why? Because it limits the amount of exposure that a “rob and ride” can do. In order to rob me the guy on the back has to jump off and make his move. That’s tough to do if I’m walking northbound and he’s driving southbound. Based on your unfortunate experience, is it safe to speculate that these guys were waiting for you or at the very least had a brief time period to size you up? I’m only asking because these clowns will do this again. It’s disappointing that there is a cultural acceptance of thievery in Latin America.
Lastly, I know that people can get robbed anywhere in the world for any myriad of reasons. THAT DOES NOT MAKE IT RIGHT. I’m deeply troubled when expats and tourists make nonsensical justifications for being crime victims by making comparisons to cities in their home countries. This argument of “well Medellin’s crime is not as bad as when I was a victim of [insert crime] in XYZ city/state/country” doesn’t do anyone any justice. I know of a ex-pat woman who was murdered by her local-native husband in another country I frequent. He was a scoundrel but she stayed with him because after all, “He’s not like my abusive ex-husband I had back in the U.K.”. That excuse obviously didn’t help her when the warning signs were clearly there.
Yes, I would speculate that those guys on the motorcycle were waiting for someone that looked like a foreigner.
Absolutely,and we stick out like sore thumbs. God bless you Jeff. I have wanted to sell out and leave here after my last attack. I just don’t and refuse to give up so easily, but at 70 years old this is something I didn’t sign up for. I am from New York City and rode the subways in the most dangerous neighborhoods in Brooklyn and am accustomed to living around crime but Medellin takes the meaning of crime to another level. Be safe Jeff we need you alive. Maybe one day we should all go down to the Alcadia and try anf meet with the mayor. Something needs to be done sooner than later.
Please Ron go and talk to the Mayor, our government will listen more readily to a foreigner from the North Hemisphere than to their own people. Anyway, we as a people (meaning, many Colombians) are very sleepy still.
I wonder, how it is that Medellin is very progressive city, but the authorities do absolutely nothing with regards to the rampant criminality, could be that these cheap criminals are connected to the bigger authority and receive orders to control the citizenry. Unfortunately, it had happen to you what happens to common Colombian everyday. We must not forget that our elite and their government of turn are corrupt to the core, that is the reason we leave our country to look for better and more “safe” ways of living. Well, please excuse my English, I need a tutor…
No apology needed for your English is quite good and well stated . Good job ! You have to be careful in Medellin because the people down hear are noted for being extremely aggressive . And if you pushed the shoulder of the UNE worker that was a dangerous thing to do . Colombians do not like to be touched in an angry situation and usually retaliate back , You must be on your guard at all times .
The Colombian people are sweet and hard working and tolerant to a fault. They perservered and helped transform Medellin after the death of Pablo Escobar into a modern thriving city. A lot more work needs to be done here to improve public safety. I am just not sure we have the wherewithall to stand up to those thugs out there whose jailhouse mentality and lifestlyes are running amok here outside of the prison gates. We are at the mercy of these criminals and I am not sure there is much we can do to fight the gangsters on their motos. The city is a moto metropolis and the the thieves blend in so effectively that its practically impossible to apprehend them all.They are clever, cunning, ruthless and very dangerous and are expert at their trade. Very sad. What is the answer? I hope law enforcement figures it out sooner than later. We deserve better. All Colombians and expats alike.
What can we expect from our government? If the head is rotten, can you imagine the feet?
Johnny: Thank you for your good vives regarding my English skills, I wonder how people are able to understand me, because we are not supposed to write the same way as we speak, and that is what I do, plus I do not know the grammatical rules ( I always skipped grammar classes).
Now, talking about the aggressiveness of people in Colombia, well you know that there is all kind of people everywhere, you were not lucky that day and you encountered a “PATAN”.
They should ban pillion passengers in barrios frequented by foreigners and well to-do Colombians like they do in Cartagena.
They should ban male passengers on motorcycles, as they have done in the past.
Jeff, so sorry to hear that, good information to know and to be prepared. (not panic)
I don’t carry wallet. Only needed cards and cash zipped into either jacket pockets plus cargo pants which contain lot of other stuff . (Bogota is always cold) . So what then if thief demand wallet ? give him a messy pile of stuff???
At night I only walk the 2 blocks around condo – plenty of shop, restaurants, T-D1, Need to ask Claro if can register PrePago SIM number.
Dificult today to “no dar papaya” since having the cell with you all the time is almost as necesary as the breathing…robbers know everyone have a cellphone at least and some cash…but worst part in this story is that ppl around just stay and look at you and enjoy the moment when you get assaulted with a knife…they just think “thanks god was not me the victim”…i
I boarded a taxi at la playa and junin after a pleasant dinner. We stopped at the next light and a raving madman with a knife demanded my cell phone. I hesistated for an instant and then reliazed my life is more valuable than my phone. The look on the robbers face is something indescribable. Fear and Anger and rage. I could tell he was seriously deranged / high on drugs / mentally ill perhaps, who knows?
It was Like something out of Night of the living dead. Filing a report / denuncio is fine if you have insurance and a claim is to be filed, other than that the chances of apprenhending these robbers is less likely than winning the lottery. Never resist when being robbed here as human life is not worth very much here. Sad but true. Glad Jeff survived the traumatic robbery. It is a violation that is difficult to forget or minimize. The criminals scouring our city in search of victims is all too real and so common these days. I have never been the same since i was violated twice. Many of us make comparisons to other cities or countries. Guess what? We don’t live in those other places. We live here. Be vigiliant and be prepared. Keep your eyes open and try and spot trouble before it spots you. Scan your periphery frequently and be aware of the young hoodlums on motos. They are the scourge of our beautiful city.
No way in hell am I going after someone with a knife to save someone’s cell phone. And that’s despite the fact that I’m way bigger than the typical Colombian and and know how to handle myself in a physical confrontation. Attacking someone with a knife is no joke, you’re probably getting sliced up even if you win, and while I hate robbers, I’m not risking not going home to my loved ones over my own stupid cell phone, much less someone else’s. People don’t react because these things happen fast and your option is charge the thief or let it happen, things are over way too fast to grab a weapon or organize other by-standers to help you.
Thanks for this. We were also advised not to give money to people who came to our door to ask. We had been doing that (in Belen) but then were robbed of a laptop as the robber (of whom we got photos with our cameras we had installed the week before !) climbed over the balcony when I had gone to the store in the afternoon. We feel very sad that many people who may be in dire straits in the city we can’t help with a few coins. However, it is also not fun to be a “mark”. Since we no longer had the serial # of the laptop, we decided not to follow up with the police. However, we did inform people in the neighborhood of the robbery so they would be on the lookout.
Glad that you were not physically hurt! I walk on La 70 all the time and never dreamed that someone would rob me with lots of people around. In streets such as that one do you believe it would be safer to walk closer to the businesses and further away from the traffic lanes, or do you think it makes any difference at all? As someone else mentioned, it’s a good idea to have some hidden pockets which you can actually sew yourself with just a piece of cotton. Also sometimes I carry a decoy wallet that has several 1.000 and 2.000 peso notes plus a few expired credit cards so that it looks like the real thing. Fortunately, I’ve never been robbed and I hope my good luck continues.
Glad you’re safe Jeff. You did the right thing staying calm. Medellín is overall a great place to visit/live, but it’s important for everyone to realize that it’s not all sunshine and roses; it’s real out there…there is another layer. You gotta keep your eyes open because you best believe somehow has always got their eyes on you. Great safety tips you’ve provided, this should definitely save us all some troubles.
Thankyou for the information , I’m going to Medellin in February, tbh it’s made me think now about what to look out for…
Not going to lie but now it’s made me think twice… I am staying laureles estadio for 3 days and I’m going out at night with my girlfriend (Colombian) for a meal and to propose
I’ve never been to Colombia before so I’m not sure how much money to take ? Of should I not bother with cash at all? And just have a card?
I always carry my iPhone with me? Again should I leave it at home?
Leave your iphone home.i never ever take mine out of my house. Buy a cheap phone. My friend had his 1000 dollar cell phone stolen at 12 noon on a busy street at gunpoint a few weeks ago.
So sad we have to live in mortal fear. Lets stop comparing Medellin to los angeles or other american cities. Its not comparing apples to apples. Medellin is a very dangerous city there are no safe places here except inside malls. Moto robbers cruise the entire city looking for victims. The better the neighborhood the more likely they will be there. They are brazen and quick and know how to get what they want in the blink of an eye Youtube has some sobering videos and interviews with these punks. They are are a breed unlike any other. We are their easy targets. Minuto30.com has daily videos worth watching.
Always a great idea to have two wallets. One filed with dummy stuff (Easy to fill with Venezuelan bills) and a bunch of business cards that people hand out all the time. Also an old cellphone that is broke is a good extra to have with you to hand over. Also like the ideas listed above. “security pocket”… great idea!
Why not just put cards in a different pocket than the wallet? A thief is not going to do a pat down once he has your wallet.
And one more reason not to upgrade my cheap phone!
Yup. I leave the newer iphone at home (USA) and take a 5C as the travel phone (paid $40 on ebay) Good enough for texting, email, uber, maps… Actually when walking locally, don’t always bring phone.
I too have retired here in Colombia for the last 10 years off and on. The one thing I know is don’t expect any help from people on the streets. You are on your own here but as a trained Martial Artist I do fight back when it is needed. Be safe and stay aware of your surroundings. I agree with your comments and as a foreigner it is almost impossible to blend in so keep your eyes open and be very aware of 2 people on a motorcycle. They use a drug here that can be sprayed or put on an object so take nothing from people on the streets.
And how will your Martial Arts skills help you when you are threatened with a knife or a gun?
The best option is probably to just carry a cheap phone and some cash for the day. This way it wouldnt matter so much. I cannot estimate the psychological effect though, because i was never robbed and hopefully never will. In Europe thefts at knifepoint or gunpoint are rare. But I would like to visit Colombia one day and have to be prepared for bad scenarios unfortunately.
Jeff, were you actually on La 70? What time was it? I was robbed in Nov when I was down there but I was foolish. I was walking home from La 70 to my apartment in Santa Teresita, Laureles around midnight. Until then I just felt so safe in Medellin I wasn’t thinking. I got complacent especially because Laureles has really become an upscale location. You just feel safe there. My friend who I was with is Colombian and could tell the thieves were Venezulians by there accent. His family said they have become a major problem in Medellin now. I still play in my mind Dave Lee’s warning that the streets in Laureles are quiet at night so take a cab.
Yes was only on La 70. Went to dinner at Mondongo’s on La 70 and was walking on La 70 to the Estadio metro station at about 9 pm when this happened.
wow. that’s disturbing. How can you avoid something like that? After we were robbed we knew we were stupid to walk at that hour but we kept on asking, at what hour do you just not walk home and take a cab? Even after the robbery I wouldn’t have said 9:00 PM even when you’re walking on La 70. Last year we walked home at night from the second park all the time and never thought anything about it. I’m not sure if Santa Teresita, Laureles is safer than the La 70 area but it feels that way now.
Very sorry for you to hear this Jeff. Just two things I would like to know:
1. Did you wear a watch? If you did, did they not ask for it?
2. Did you watch at your phone in the minutes before the robbery happened?
Regards and take care!
Yes, have a inexpensive Casio watch, didn’t ask for it. Didn’t use the phone at all in the restaurant or walking on the street.
Ok I understand.
It would be interesting to know from those robbery numbers you posted how much % happens when it’s dark (let’s say after 6 PM). I guess about 90% because at daytime robberies happen very few from what I hear. Even in Centro at the most dangerous places at daytime never felt unsafe in 8 years time here….
Besides that it would be interesting to know how many % of the robberies happen to extranjeros…
Hi Jeff very sorry to hear this happened to you but very relieved that the recommended reaction of zero resistance prevented you from suffering any physical harm. After all you were able to replace all your lost items in four dayd, but there is only one Jeff Pashke and he is irreplaceable! Much love from Dodgy Dave
There are gringos who lived in 12 de Octobre, Aranjuez, etc. I am told that these barrios are actually safer that Laureles\Poblado. The Combos(gangs) derive their income from drug sales. They are on the lookout for young men from other area to protect their racket. They will generally keep a lid on various crimes.
Hi Jeff, So sorry about what happened. Pretty crazy to hear.
I have some friends visiting and they usually stay in Laureles. Do you have any suggestions for other areas they can stay at? I am in Envigado now and it seems quite nice here. But what do you think?
Both Envigado and Sabaneta have lower crime rates than Laureles, see our article about safest neighborhoods – https://medellinguru.com/safest-neighborhoods/
Jeff sorry to hear of your experience. You proved great info and tips, I am going to follow all your advice and most of the others in the replies. When I started reading I had a feeling reactivating phone service was going to be a big hassel. Again sorry about what happened. You have drfinitely raisedmy awareness.
I am so sorry to hear this happened to you. I can imagine it was very frightening.
I was just on LA 70 two nights ago. I hardly ever go there. But it was crowded so I felt safe. Obviously I wasn’t safe at all.
Whatever can we do with Uber pulling out of Colombia in two weeks?
There is InDriver and Beat, but the crooked cab drivers will drive them out of business soon. Having driven Uber out of the country after 6 years is a very bad omen for Colombia’s future. The young people who commit most of the crime have no recollection of the Escobar era.
The cab drivers pulled this off by bribing the authorities. I heard the bribe was a promise that no taxi driver will participate in any public demonstration against the government.
But 88,000 drivers are now unemployed. Many have car leases that are only affordable by using the car for Uber. These families were moving into the middle class.
So sad for all the families whose standard of living will fall disastrously without Uber. People who are suddenly without income may get desperate and turn to crime. The Uber drivers have kids.
2 million Uber users are now stuck paying cash no matter what service they use, unless they have a Colombian bank issued major brand credit card. Visa or MasterCard. Forget Maestro.
Hopefully, the politicians that caused so much pain to so many will be voted out of office.
There is US company called Clothing Art that manufactures and sells online stylish pickpocket proof clothing. They post stories from people wearing their clothing that prevented being robbed by a pickpocket. 175 stories so far.
Lots of good ideas in your article about how to stay out of harms way. Think about walking as far away from the curb as possible. Motos parked near the curb with two young dudes just sitting there are to be given a wide berth.
I hope I am never in the situation in which you found yourself. But if you, Jeff, a long time resident who is street smart got robbed it can happen to any of us.
May we all please stay safe….
No worries about Uber. There are always alternatives (DiDi is possible to pay with creditcard as well) and if they have to leave Colombia too at some point some new apps will pop up. Not worried about this at all.
What a bummer Jeff! Thanks for providing your story! As they used to say on the great show Hill Street Blues, lets be careful out there!
Personal security is very important here. It is easy to purchase on Amazon, recording glasses with an internal camera, that records everything as you walk along the street, these could be plain glasses or even sunglasses. You can easily clip on your waist belt, a top quality Police Bodycamera, they are also sold on Amazon. The National Police website has a downloadable, comprehensive xls spreadsheet which lists in great detail all the homicides that occurred in Colombia in 2019. A grand total of 12,522 last year. This will give you an idea of the dangerous areas etc. I wish you the very best and hope you recover from the abuse of your personal space and security.
Jeff, great info. I have to say, all the trouble you had to go through is very disappointing. Living here two years, I never have understood the massive level of “no can do” and waste in customer service here. I have a feeling that as Colombia gradually emerges as a global economy, good service will be forced on the market in a way that is very disruptive, and hopefully very traumatic for the players who today feel like the customer is a product. I’ve been in customer service most of my career, and some of the casual lack of willingness, lack of accountability I see here is truly stunning. The company that succeeds here in the future will absolutely need to be customer-focused.
Hi Paul, thanks. It took more time running around than I thought it would. The easiest was the Medellín metro, which was very customer focused. Didn’t even make me pay for a new Civica card even though their policy is only the first Civica is free.
I feel your pain Jeff and I’m very sorry to hear about your experience which I relate to all too well.
Though I’ve been here only two years, I have already been skillfully pickpocketed, shaken down and had my spare iPhone taken by a person who was brazen enough to send me a message asking me to unlock my phone by giving him my password to the Cloud.
And if that’s not enough, my friend’s Laureles apartment which is built like Fort Knox, or so I thought, was just burglarized a week ago. The outer bars of his front window were bent outwards from each other like in a Superman movie. We assume they used a crowbar to create the opening which was big enough to crawl though. We have the tops of their heads on video which doesn’t help much.
So I’ve now adopted a more cynical loss-prevention-strategy in which I’ve just come to assume that, even though I am careful, I will be robbed and I will be burglarized, therefore I hide things as well as I reasonably can, making it as inconvenient and labor-intensive as possible for any potential future encounter.
I still think Medellín is a great place but no place can be perfect.
Jeff, I actually keep a spare wallet. Is that something you recommend?
That is probably a good idea.
Sorry about what happened to you Jeff. I have been robbed twice in the 3.5 years I have been living in Medellin so know that it can be a very unsettling experience.
The first time was the typical guy hops off the back of a motor bike with a gun scenario. It happened in Laureles behind the Consumo in Calle 33. They stole an expensive cell phone (which I had not been using in the street) and my wallet.
The second time was by a group of young Nacional fans with knives near the Stadium. They stole a cheap cell phone and a little cash. The guy in charge took the cash out of my wallet and then gave the wallet back to me. Another guy was then instructed to thoroughly pat me down and check my pockets. They found a little more money in my pocket which they also took. This was a very scary incident as I was surrounded by a large group. It took me a while to recover mentally from this incident.
Virtually everyone I know here (the majority are Colombians) have been robbed, many several times so Medellin is certainly a little ‘hot’ at the moment and has been for a while. In my opinion it will only get worse with the influx of thousands upon thousands of impoverished Venezuelans.
Violence takes many forms here, I was attacked yesterday afternoon by two Policeman in front of my Apartment building, because I pushed the shoulders of a UNE technician who cut off the service to my Internet and TV, he refused to apologise or to reconnect my service, he said he was revising the cables and my wife gave permission which was a lie. They handcuffed me and twisted the cuffs so I have now 2 bloody gashes on my wrist, they believed the lies of UNE. My wife spent 2 hours on the phone to UNE being lied to and offering no apologies at all. These guys were sadistic. I filmed everything and have 6 videos as evidence. I never attacked the Police or even insulted them, after I called them Racists, they suddenly became less aggressive. These people are unaccountable to anyone. They know people will think “he must have done something,” +++they will always go against the foreiger here. Beware.
UPDATE**UNE will come in Saturday to fix their mistake. I have now switched to CLARO Triple Play, they are coming in Tuesday to replace all the UNE devices with their devices on a very fast turnaround, no paperwork all via telephone sales and cost free install, hope this helps someone.
Sorry for what happened to you. Hopefully everything will go smoothly with the new corporation. I do not trust any of those companies, they are all the same.
Thanks for your kind words, spent 1 hour 24 minutes waiting for Claro to answer a call today, hung up after a message stating wait another 44 minutes. You are totally correct. Waiting for my Lawyers to return to work to deal with the other matter. Best Wishes.
Not from Colombia, never visited, but–
1. You walked alone.
2. You walked alone at night.
3. You probably looked like an easy target.
4. It’s possible but I imagine very unlikely that your “friend” set you up. You mention many times you walked at night this same route. I wonder if your friend knew the route you take and may have had his accomplice rubbers ready at the curb on your route, (only you were robbed).
5. What clothes were you wearing? Did you blend in it look like an obvious tourist.
6. Were you attentive? Why did you keep walking when you saw two guys sitting in a motorbike?
It was a very busy street with many bars and restaurants and many people walking on the street and I have walked at night on this street many times without issues.
My friend is an expat so not set up. Was wearing closes so blend in, if fact was asked for directions twice while walking from Colombians. Was attentive and just happened to see the motorbike when walking by, didn’t think about it as there were many people walking along the road.
I’d noticed that you mentioned in other posts being robbed forcefully in Laureles so I looked for this article out of curiosity. I wondered if it was on La 70… I live in Laureles almost into Las Acacias. There’s a world of difference between the different neighborhoods of Laureles-Estadio. It’s difficult to get super granular with the statistics but I’ve long had a hunch that the crime statistics which drag down Laureles are coming from areas around La 70 and north of Avenida San Juan.
Yes, it was on LA70 was walking back to the metro on a busy Saturday night pre-pandemic. There were two kids on a moto and one jumped off and stuck me up.
Exactly. The first question I ask about what happens on LA70 is was it North of San Juan (44thSt.) or South of San Juan. On a weekend after dark nothing much would surprise me North. If muggings start happening South then Houston we have a problem.