We look at the homicide rates and robbery rates in several neighborhoods in Aburrá Valley to find the safest neighborhoods in Medellín and the Aburrá Valley.

I have seen many posts on the Internet that claim that El Poblado and Laureles are two of the safest neighborhoods in Medellín.

The highest counts of reported robberies and thefts in the comunas in Medellín occur in the La Candelaria comuna (El Centro). And this is followed by Laureles-Estadio and El Poblado, which are two of the most popular neighborhoods for foreigners in Medellín. So, statistically El Poblado and Laureles are not really two of the safest neighborhoods in terms of robberies.

Several Medellin Guru readers have asked about the safest neighborhoods in Medellín. So, we now look at crime statistics to determine the safest neighborhoods in Medellín and the Aburrá Valley.

In this article, we look at the 2018 homicide rates in all 16 of the comunas of El Medellín as well as four other municipalities in the Aburrá Valley that are popular with foreigners. Also, we account for population differences by calculating homicide rates per 100,000 inhabitants.

In addition, we compare the robbery rates in five comunas and municipalities in the Aburrá Valley. Note that homicide rates and robbery rates are generally not reported for individual barrios, as they are too small. And unfortunately, robbery rates are not regularly reported for all the comunas and municipalities in the Aburrá Valley.

Police in Medellín, photo by National Police of Colombia

Police in Medellín, photo by National Police of Colombia

2018 Homicide Rates in Medellín and 4 Municipalities

Homicide counts in all 16 comunas in Medellín for 2018 were reported in an article on Carocol Radio (in Spanish).

But these were reported counts of homicides per comuna and didn’t account for the different sizes of comunas in Medellín. The homicide rate in all of Medellín in 2018 was 24.75 per 100,000.

Also, we were able to find 2018 homicide rates in four other municipalities in the Aburrá Valley: Envigado, Sabaneta, Bello and Itagüí. Unfortunately, the homicide rates for five additional smaller municipalities in the Aburrá Valley (Barbosa, Caldas, Girardota, La Estrella and Coopacabana) don’t appear to be regularly reported.

But a news report in Teleantioquia Noticias (in Spanish) in March 2019 indicated that there was over a 100 percent increase in homicides in the first three months of 2019 compared to the same period in 2018 in the north Aburrá Valley (in Bello, Copacabana and Barbosa).

The following table shows counts of homicides for all 16 comuna in 2018 in Medellín and four separate municipalities. The list is ordered from low to high homicide rate. Also, the table includes population and the calculated rate of homicides per 100,000 inhabitants to enable comparisons:

2018 Homicide rates in Medellín comunas and 4 municipalities

2018 Homicide rates in Medellín comunas and 4 municipalities

The above table shows that the lowest homicide rates per 100,000 in 2018 were in Buenos Aires, Envigado, Popular, Sabaneta and El Pobaldo, with all five having homicide rates lower than 9 per 100,000. Also, La Candelaria (El Centro) has the highest homicide count and the highest homicide rate in the Medellín metro area.

Note that in 2019, the homicide rate in Medellín is ahead of the pace of 2018. According to an article in El Colombiano (in Spanish), from January 1 to May 28 in 2019 there were 301 reported homicides in Medellín, which is up from 253 homicides during the same period in 2018.

Apartment buildings near Santafé mall in El Poblado - take care in El Poblado as it has one of the highest robbery rates in Medellín

Apartment buildings near Santafé mall in El Poblado – take care in El Poblado as it has one of the highest robbery rates in Medellín

2017 Robbery Rates

An article in March 2019 in the El Colombiano newspaper (in Spanish) reported robbery statistics in Medellín for 2017 and 2018 for the three comunas in Medellín with the highest counts of robberies and other crimes.

Note that Colombia reports hurtos, which means robberies and thefts. So, the robberies statistics in Colombia actually include both robberies and thefts. Robbery in English involves force or the threat of force. While theft is a broad term that can cover a wide variety of criminal offenses including pickpocketing.

El Poblado and Laureles-Estadio are typically in the top three comunas in Medellín each year in terms of robberies of persons, robberies of businesses and robberies of homes.

The following three tables show robbery statistics in 2017 for the top three comunas in Medellín with the highest counts of robberies and also robbery statistics for Sabaneta and Envigado:

2017 Rates of robberies of persons

2017 Rates of robberies of persons

2017 Rates of robberies of businesses

2017 Rates of robberies of businesses

2017 Rates of robberies of homes

2017 Rates of robberies of homes

The above tables demonstrate that the robbery rates in Sabaneta and Envigado are substantially lower than the robbery rates in El Poblado and Laureles-Estadio. Note that Envigado reports rates of robberies per 100,000, not counts. So. the counts for Envigado were calculated and the Envigado numbers above are from 2016.

Also, keep in the mind the high rates of robberies of persons and businesses in La Candelaria (El Centro) can be attributed to the big influx of people working and shopping during the day in El Centro. In addition, robbery statistics for other comunas and other municipalities unfortunately are not regularly reported and appear to be much more difficult to find.

Medellín Safety

We previously looked at security and safety in Medellín, which is the most popular article on the Medellin Guru website.

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.

We repeat here our 20 Medellín safety tips for expats from our popular Medellín safety article.

Police officer at Pueblito Paisa, photo by National Police of Colombia

Police officer at Pueblito Paisa, photo by National Police of Colombia

20 Medellín Safety Tips

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. 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.
  2. 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.
  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. 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 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. Be particularly careful in Parque Lleras in El Pobaldo and LA 70 in Laureles, which are common locations for drugging cases.
  10. Take care even in El Poblado. Street crime is possible everywhere in Medellín. El Poblado is touted by some as the safest part of the city. But robbery statistics have been increasing in El Poblado. This is likely due to criminals targeting the wealthiest area of Medellín where most foreign tourists stay.
  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 or Uber 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.
  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 and the Aburrá Valley but also generally apply to other cities in Colombia and other countries in Latin America.

Medellin Guru’s Safety and Security Series

Since safety is the biggest concern of foreigners visiting Colombia or planning to move to Colombia. So, we have a series of articles about safety and security in Colombia:

1,000 new police in Medellín in 2014, photo by National Police of Colombia

1,000 new police in Medellín in 2014, photo by National Police of Colombia

The Bottom Line: Safest Neighborhoods in Medellín and the Aburrá Valley

The statistics in the above article show that Sabaneta and Envigado are arguably two of the safest neighborhoods in the Aburrá Valley with low rates of robberies and homicides.

I have lived in Sabaneta for over three years and feel very safe, even walking at night. But keep in mind that crime is possible everywhere in Medellín and the Aburrá Valley.

In addition, I have seen El Poblado and Laureles being touted by some people as two of the safest neighborhoods in the Medellín metro area. But the robbery statistics above demonstrate that both El Poblado and Laureles are not really two of the safest neighborhoods, as they have some of the highest robbery rates in the metro area. Clearly thieves are targeting two of the wealthiest neighborhoods.

The bottom line is you should take precautions in any neighborhood in Medellín and the Aburrá Valley. And if you follow our safety tips listed above, your risk of being a victim of crime should be greatly reduced.

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