Safety in Santa Cruz - Should I Rethink Moving There?

by Alan
(New York City)

I am thinking of moving to Bolivia with my wife (Boliviana)and two children ages 10 and 4. I would like an honest answer to the security issue. Many Bolivians express their concern for safety but most have not been victims of crimes, only have heard of these crimes happening. What is yo0ur honest appraisal of safety in Santa Cruz? Should I rethink?

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Jan 12, 2013
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Paradox?
by: Steve Baker

I'm not sure how "relatively safe country" jibes with "There is a huge problem in human trafficking."

I've lived in Santa Cruz for four years and love it, but I would never tell anyone that it's safe to live here.

Let's be completely honest, it's as nearly completely lawless here as a country can be and still be called "civilized". You might as well consider that the police do not exist, except perhaps as your enemies. Yet I still love it.

But, I guess Hell would be safer, because you're already dead... (snicker-doodle124 at hotmail)

Jan 09, 2013
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Safety issues in Santa Cruz and Bolivia in General
by: Anonymous

Bolivia is a relatively safe country, but you still need to accept and take responsibility for your own safety and the safety of your family. You may never have any problem but you must be careful. Petty theft is common through Bolivia and if you leave your house or car unsecured or something out you can kiss it goodbye. Although is is only talked about in whispers organized criminal enterprises have taken hold in Santa Cruz. The Russian Mafia, Peruvian and Brazilian criminal gangs and Colombian and Mexican drug cartels operate out of Bolivia and particularly Santa Cruz. After narcotics, the thing to be most concerned about is kidnapping especially of children and young women. There is a huge problem in human trafficking. Don't believe me just go to any bus terminal or police station and see the posters of missing children and young women.

Oct 18, 2012
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By Alan
by: Alan

I really do appreciate your comments and have many of the same concerns, especially about the Police not being there or following up on crimes. I will
continue to discuss these concerns with my wife before we make our decision. Thank you for your sincere responses.

Oct 02, 2012
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Safety in Santa Cruz
by: Steve Baker

I love Santa Cruz, have lived here four years, but I have no children here.

I don't honestly think Santa Cruz is any less safe than any large American city's downtown area, but that's a place most Americans won't live, even though there are police.

Here, there are plenty of police, but they must do nothing but sdministrative chores in the stations, because you rarely see them on the streets and even more rarely at night.

It is very unsafe on the streets and highways. More dangerous than mountain climbing or swimming with sharks, in my estimation. I refuse to own a car here, but taxis and public transportation are great. Wish we had as good in the States. Forget bikes or seatbelts.

There are no jobs you can make a real living at.

Bolivia is not for everyone. One should have a very good reason for even thinking of living here. Best of luck to you.
justmoondog at hotmail

Oct 01, 2012
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it's not that bad
by: Anonymous

I've been living here for 6 years with 2 kids, 8 & 5 y/o. I've been assaulted here, but I was also assaulted in San Francisco when I lived there, it's just bad luck sometimes.

Santa Cruz used to be a lot safer, it's not nearly as safe as it was 10 years ago, BUT it's still not MORE dangerous than in any other random major city.
I do think it's improved in the last 2 years though, it seemed to be getting really bad, then calmed down a bit.

The police are worthless, but you get an alarm system, and even better if you live in a closed/gated community. You do need to be more low-profile than you would have to in the US (no fancy car, no flashy jewelry).

It's manageable if you want to live here, and personally, I love it here.

Sep 14, 2012
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Crime In Santa Cruz
by: Anonymous

I feel safer in NYC than in Santa Cruz. At least in NYC you see police officers patrolling the city everywhere on foot, bike and by car. Should you need to file a police report in NYC, at least the police will follow-up on the crime and conduct an investigation. NYC PD take their jobs seriously and are first class police force! In Santa Cruz, the police don't care unless you pay them cash under the table and then perhaps you get some assistance. I would recommend not to go to Bolivia.

Sep 14, 2012
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Crime is on the rise
by: BoliviaBella.com

In the 16 years I have lived in Santa Cruz I have never been the victim of a crime (except that once a man walked past me and yanked my necklace off and ran away). I am blond and blue-eyed and obviously very foreign looking.

Having said that (and knocking on wood as I say it) the crime rates in Santa Cruz have been rising at alarming rates over the past 5 years, as they have in every major Bolivian city.

If you are from New York, then Santa Cruz may seem tame to you in comparison (I'm still way more nervous each time I live in the US than I am here). But crime is increasing, as the city is struggling to keep up with its own growth.

Santa Cruz is the 14th fastest growing city in the world as of three years ago due to high immigration rates from other regions. All services are struggling to keep up (infrastructure, medical facilities, schools, illumination, pavement, water and safety/police services).

In addition, although Santa Cruz is the largest city in Bolivia, it has one of the smallest police forces. I read somewhere that the La Paz police force is about 3-4 times larger than here.

As in all large cities worldwide, there are areas that are more crime-ridden than others, but as we all know, crimes can and do take place in any area of any city. I would suggest a "scouting" trip before you make a definite decision.

Sep 14, 2012
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Same precautions as anywhere else
by: Anonymous

If you are from NYC then you are definitely familiar with crime (day or night) and the common sense you must exercise in ANY large city of the world.

Sep 14, 2012
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BEWARE
by: Anonymous

Alan,
if you hear or are told something nonsensical like the canned response, "although crime is growing not just in Bolivia but in all of Latin America, Santa Cruz is like any other city in the world as it relates to crime..", I suggest you move on and procure other sources. The harsh reality of the streets of Santa Cruz cannot be summed-up by a biased portrayal of a warm, fun loving SA city just going through some 'growing pains'. Last year I had a gun put to my head while innocently walking down a street during daylight hours in a nice part of the city, and thank God ONLY lost 100Bs. I'm athletic, street-wise, non gringo looking, and always under-dressed with no back pack...not what you would consider a typical target is my point. I realize that the topic is too vast for a few blog posts and it's easy to over-categorize, but the lack of police presence and response is the glaring defeciency. The bottom line is that your two children will not be able to walk anywhere without adult supervision, I'm just saying. Sadly, students are prime targets for a variety of crime. It is sad, very sad, because what should be a lovely, vibrant city for all to live, Santa Cruz has a dark shadow of crime hovering over it.

Sep 14, 2012
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Robbed at Gun Point in the Afternoon
by: Tom

Alan, you need to think about this carefully. My partner and I recently bought a condo in the first ring, in the vicinity of the Cine Center and Plaza Blacutt, and we there in May of 2012 going over the finishing touches of the unit. The condo is located in a neighborhood that is very very beautiful. However, as we were walking during a sunny Saturday afternoon(1:30 pm) towards the direction of the Cine Center, four guys robbed us with guns and knives. Apparently they were following us in their car and knew excactly where to jump us. One of the robbers waited in the car so they could speed off. They had no shame as the came around the street corner with their guns already drawn in mid air. A gun was pointed right in my face. Keep in mind this occured in a residencial neigborhood that I was told later no one walks in because the daily crime. Three guys robbed us and made sure we gave them everything as they put their hands down our pockets: wallet, credit cards, iphones, cash, bank card, book bag, etc. For me, it was a horrific and traumatic experience. We went to the police and filed a police report. We were told by the police this happens everyday in SCZ. It was obvious to me the police had no intention of investigating the crime. nothing. The police report was a joke -- errors throughout. As we told others about our story, we were informed by those that live in Santa Cruz crime has increased dramaticallt. One person told us their son had been robbed on three separate occassions: one time at 9 am after leaving the gym; other time in the afteroon someone pointed a gun in his back and asked for all his money, and a third time mugged on the street for his money. Another person told me he was robbed on his wedding day and had no money to buy his wedding cake. Another person told me she keeps an extra wallet in the car in case of criminal approaching her at a stop light with some cash in it.

For us it was a sad experience, because we planned on living and retiring in Santa Cruz. However, after this life altering event, we decided it is just too dangerous to live there. I cannot live in fear, and I believe that is how I would feel. Needless to say, once our condo is finished, we plan to sell it immediately. We have no plans to return to Santa Cruz. I would also advise you to read the newspaper eldia.com.bo. they report a lot crime events that occur in the city. I read about them prior to our May 2012 trip and thought nothing would happen to me. Just the complete opposite. Please be careful and think about this carefully, especially since you have young children.

PS -- I have found that I rarely see any police patrolling the city by car or foot.

Tom

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