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Report: Guayas, Ecuador, the least safe region in the world

Nearly half of all homicides recorded in the country in 2023 were committed in the province. Last year in the capital of Guayas, Guayaquil, there were 1,016 homicides.

Guayaquil, Ecuador.

Guayaquil (Anne and David / Flickr)

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Murders, kidnappings, extortion, drug trafficking, armed robberies. In recent years, Ecuador has experienced a sharp increase in criminal activity. That United Nations reported that the child homicide rate shot up 640% over the past four years. The overall homicide rate jumped from 13.7 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2021 to 43 per 100,000 in 2023, according to Human Rights Watch data. Given these rates, President Daniel Noboa, who has been in office since October 2023, has enacted new measures via popular vote, such as toughening penalties and enabling the military to assume the functions of the National Police. These initiatives have the same objective: minimizing organized crime.

Noboa promised to end crime in all regions and provinces of Ecuador. One of them is Guayas, located in the west of the country, which now has the title of being one of the least safe places on the planet.

A report by Gallup, which put the rate of homicides in Ecuador last year at 45 per 100,000 inhabitants, on par with data from Human Rights Watch, indicates that 47% of all homicides reported in the country in 2023 were committed in Guayas. On top of this, 39% of residents in the province claimed that they had money stolen from them or that their properties were raided and 24% indicated that they were physically attacked.

These indicators are why the majority of Guayas citizens (51%) want to leave the province, including 15% who are determined to do so in the next 12 months. Only 11% of residents said they feel safe when walking alone at night, a number that has changed drastically compared to years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic (55%).

Guayaquil, the city with the highest crime rate

The capital of the province of Guayas, Guayaquil, is perhaps the most important city in Ecuador behind the national capital of Quito. The city has the highest crime rate in the country. The Ecuadorian Observatory of Organized Crime (OECO) reported that in 2023, there were 886 murders, 29 femicides, 97 homicides and four hired murders, accounting for a total of 1,016 different cases.

To combat high crime, the city's mayor, Aquiles Álvarez, promised to take series of measures to make Guayaquil a safe place before taking office in 2023. Among these measures, the mayor assured that he would double the number of security cameras "to have 24-hour surveillance, seven days a week," as well as "equip the city with 300 drones" and "start the Citizen Police Force with 5,000 troops."

According to the OECO report, apart from Guayaquil, several other cities in the province of Guayas also recorded a high number of homocides in 2023: Durán (292), Milagro (215), Naranjal (163), Daule (147) and San Jacinto de Yaguachi (105).