Sunday, January 24, 2010

Is the Murder Rate Down in Medellin? Is Medellin Safe or Unsafe?

Is the Murder Rate in Medellin Down....or Up? Is Medellin safe....or unsafe?

Well, the answer to this important question seems to depend on who you listen to. If you listen to Gabriel Silva, the Colombian defense minister, the murder rate in Medellin is on a 30 years low. According to Silva, there are now 22 homicides per week in Medellin, which would be a significant improvement.

However, there are some doubts that Silva has his numbers right. The local ombudsman Jairo Heran claims that the homicide rate doubled to 2,200 in Medellin in 2009 from 2008.

Anecdotal evidence seems to confirm the ombudsman's view point: friends of mine from poor neighborhoods like Manrique tell me that these neighborhoods are still "hot", which means that there are shootings which at times keep taxis from going into these neighborhoods at night.

This new violence has been ongoing for about a year now and it a direct consequence of some of the biggest mafia- and drug-bosses being arrested. Now a follower's and territorial was has begun between rivaling drug gangs. It's the irony of the situation that huge successes against violence in Medellin now generated more violence.

So is Medellin safer or unsafer for the foreign traveler? In my personal opinion and from my observations having lived here for almost 2 years Medellin in 2010 seems just as safe as in 2008. The new violence is stricly contained to the poorest of the poorest neighborhoods, essentially gangsters killing other gangsters. It does not affect areas like Poblado, Laureles and other, where the majority of the tourists and ex pats live and party.

Are you considering visiting Medellin? Let the negative press and more importently the public opinion about Medellin outside of Colombia not hold up your plans. Medellin is gorgeous, the people are wonderful and the city is safe, as long as you're not doing anything particularly stupid.

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