Avoid Becoming a Victim of Crime

#1
Back in the last week of April 2008, I witnessed a mugging of two well-dressed elder Argentine gentlemen at 13:00hrs, on a Saturday, on the corner of Esmeralda y Arenales in Retiro. The two muggers on foot that accosted these two well-dressed residents of Retiro were in their 30s, husky in stature, and about 5'9" tall. The perps approached the victims from behind, wrapped their arms around them, reached into their pockets, and took their cash, wallets, and keys (note to self: don't keep ID with your home address on you because if they steal your ID and your keys, guess what?) Then one of the perps punched the older of the two gentlemen in the face causing the man to fall down into the street of Arenales. While the other gentleman went to assist his friend, the two perps ran into the street of Arenales, jumped onto the back of a waiting motorcycle, and all three fled the scene. All this happened in broad daylight and was over in a matter of 30 seconds. There was nothing that I, or anyone else for that matter, could have done to stop this crime from taking place.

Witnessing this event first hand certainly has made me a little more observant than usual. Looking back, I recall seeing a pattern of events that led to this daytime mugging and hopefully this will enlighten some of you of what to be aware of when "En La Calle".

First off, this event happened on a Saturday afternoon in perhaps one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in the city. During the week, this area is bustling with people and to pull off a stunt like this would be difficult if not impossible, but on the weekend, typically only the residents of the area are walking around. Apparently, this is a common hit and run tactic that can occur anywhere. You don't have to be paranoid, but it is advisable to be aware of your surrounding at all times, especially in less crowded environments.

Now in Retiro, there are usually police standing idle between each corner seven days a week. It was no surprise to my girlfriend that when this robbery took place, there wasn't a cop on beat anywhere near the event. There should have been at least 4 cops near the corner where this event took place, but not that day at that time. Take note of where the police usually stand in your neighborhood and be especially careful when you notice they aren't there. This is not to say that something will happen, but better to be safe than sorry. Now if you live in an area where there are no cops on the streets, take note of when something is out of the ordinary and don't discount yourself when you get a weird feeling in your stomach. I believe in intuition, and this could be your greatest savior.

Prior to the mugging, the two victims must have been standing on that corner and talking to one another long enough for the police to have noticed them, tip someone off, and walk away. According to my girlfriend, this seems to be a usual scenario in the city. My girlfriend and her girlfriend were robbed at gun point about 6 months back after they left a movie theater at night. I don't remember exactly where it was, but it was a well populated avenue. As they were walking they stopped and chatted on the street for about 10-15 minutes. During that time, my gf initially noticed a cop standing on guard across the street and that is why they thought it was safe enough to stop and chat for awhile. According to her, right before they were robbed, she noticed that the cop was no longer anywhere to be seen. Luckily the only thing that happed to them was that their purses were taken. So when on the streets, either alone or with someone else, keep walking and get to where to need to go. Also, tuck away your bling-bling, or don’t wear it all, and keep some money in other parts of your clothing, including a 50 or 100p in your shoe just so you have some money to get you back home.

Now onto the three perps that committed the assault. The two who were walking on the sidewalk knew exactly who they were going to attack and I couldn’t differentiate them from any other group of guys walking on the street except maybe for the fact that they looked stocky. They both had unshaven faces, but who doesn’t on the weekends? Did they look like they didn’t belong in the neighborhood? I couldn’t tell. As a matter of fact, I was dressed similar to the perps, and at times I don’t look like I belong in my neighborhood. But that’s just how I roll in the daytime. No one seems to bother me too much when I have my game face on and dress like a thug. But that’s just me.

I didn’t really see the perp on the motorcycle until the other two jumped on and that being said, I only saw the back of his helmet and jacket. I did however recall noticing him driving up the street slowly and parallel to the two perps on the sidewalk. I paid no attention to this before, but mind you me that I am much more aware of this now and in the future when walking the streets in any the city.

As for my intuition during this event, well, it wasn’t even switched on because at this particular moment I honestly wasn’t paying attention and my guard was down. I was caught by surprise and completely helpless to render any assistance when this event occurred. In fact, I initially thought that the two perps knew the other men and were just joking around on the street. It wasn’t until I heard the perps yelling something vulgar in Spanish when it finally clicked that I was witnessing a daytime mugging. Later my gf tried to comfort me by saying that I did the right thing by not getting involved, because I wasn’t aware of the guy on the motorcycle and they were most likely packing a gun. She said it is better for the victims to have lost their wallets rather then their lives, or my life. It still doesn’t make me feel any better, but she is right and I am happy to be alive and moving to that beautiful city in August.

There are many things you can learn from this, and I certainly have. Anyone can be a victim anywhere in the world and no individual can stop these things from happening, but we can control what we do when we are outside. As a final word of advice, live your life with your eyes open to the opportunities that life has to offer, and to the potential risks. But please don't live your life in fear. Life is always sweeter after difficulties.

In closing, if you have any other personal experiences and thoughts you can contribute to this thread, I will certainly appreciate it. Please keep the Buenos Aires bashing down to a minimum since crime doesn’t only exist in Argentina. Every little piece of information that can be contributed helps to eventually see the big picture or at least a pattern. Lastly, in God we trust, and all else we observe. Be safe and viva Buenos Aires!
 
#2
Last March when we were in BA we went into a crowded subt car. A guy with a "hurt leg" started to go down and grabbed my wife on the way down while someone else grabbed for her purse. Neither succeeded. I tried to stop the fall of the guy and felt someone reaching into my pocket and pulled away. Neither Nancy or I really knew what had been happening at that point but Nancy went away from the crowd and hugged her purse. Meanwhile the "hurt leg" was limping off the train and one of his accomplices was grabbing at my hands (which were in my pockets) telling me to help the "hurt leg". As my hand came out of my pocket another hand was going in and I was pinned by several people. Again I pulled away and the whole gang got off the train. We figure there were 4 or 5 of them.

We were lucky and lost nothing.

Beware of a guy with a "hurt, bandaged leg" falling near you. There were many loose hands around.

I agree that this or a variation could easily have happened in any big city. Being alert to these scams will help keep us safe.
 
#3
It appears the "posh" section of Retiro is not as safe as it is
upscale. A similar incident occurred in December of 2007 on Arenales
near 9 de julio at about 9 in the evening. Two elderly Argentine men
were returning to their apartment from a nearby cafe. As they unlocked
the front door,they were pushed from behind and into the foyer of their
apartment building. The apartment was robbed and one of the men died
that night from a blow to the head. This area is closer to villa de
miseria 31 than most realize, but the perps could have come from almost
anywhere. I live on Arenales in a much busier section of Recoleta (a
lot more pedestrian and auto traffic), but I am still very
cautious...with good reason.

In April, while I was out of the country, two "normal" looking men
approached two girls (residents) of my apartment building as they were returning
home late at night. They told the girls they were there to see the
Yankee who lived on the fourth floor. The girls let them enter, and the
men pulled knives at the lift. Muggers and thieves don't always look like
thugs...or tell the truth. Fortunately, the girls were not hurt. They
didn't really have anything worth stealing, but the perps said they had a
van waiting outside and had looked through the keyhole of my apartment
to see if I had the kind of "loot" they wanted. Apparently I did.

The suggestion to carry some currency in a shoe is good.
Perhaps a
spare key as well, if not a full set in a money belt at the waist or
ankle "hideaway". That would save a lot of trouble if your keys are taken. Since
muggers take keys, don't carry anything with your address, either. A
photocopy of my passport and my insurance card with emergency phone
numbers (locksmith) is all I carry, along with a minimum of cash. I
also try to be aware of who is behind me as I walk
through the streets, but a surprise attack is always possible from a
recessed building entryway, and they are everywhere. I always check in
both directions as I approach the front door of my apartment building, especially late at night.
If someone I don't recognize is loitering in front of the
door, I wait
at the corner where there is a 24 hour kiosko/drugstore until they go in or are met by someone from inside...before getting too
close.



Recently, in Avellaneda, my girlfriend had her shoulder bag stolen by a
man on a motorcycle. When she would not let go of the strap, saying
NO, he cut it with a knife, saying YES. It looked like a computer bag,
but did not contain a computer. Today in the street I say a young man
with a computer style bag that was unzipped, revealing the plastic rings of spiral notebooks. Perhaps he was sending a "not worth stealing"
message. I've stopped wearing my leather jacket on the subway and when
someone in the street asks me for the time, I shrug in castellano and
say "No se. No tengo reloj." with my best accent. I never show a watch, and I wear an inexpensive one in any case.
 
#4
"steveinbsas" said:
A photocopy of my passport and my insurance card with emergency phone numbers (locksmith) is all I carry, along with a minimum of cash. I
also try to be aware of who is behind me as I walk through the streets, but a surprise attack is always possible from a recessed building entryway, and they are everywhere. I always check in both directions as I approach the front door of my apartment building, especially late at night. If someone I don't recognize is loitering in front of the door, I wait at the corner where there is a 24 hour kiosko/drugstore until they go in or are met by someone from inside...before getting too close.
Sage advice. Even vigilance is no safeguard against a surprise attack. I've had a motorcyclist coming from behind me attempt to snatch my briefcase (not in BsAs, though, and the snatch failed because reflexes kicked in). In passing, street crime of this magnitude is impossible without police connivance.
 
#5
Quoting "bigbadwolf": ". . . . street crime of this magnitude is impossible without police connivance."
Truer words . . . . And what a shame, too, as Buenos Aires and Argentina could without great difficulty regain something of the luster of their prosperous, happy years.
 

Matty

Active Member
#6
Thank you for the reminder to "just be careful". Personally, I do need someone to remind me once in awhile that though this place is safe - you never know.....those thieves are getting sooo creative and at times too violent for a mere few pesos.
Thank you Gentlemen.
 
#7
"RWS said:
And what a shame, too, as Buenos Aires and Argentina could without great difficulty regain something of the luster of their prosperous, happy years.
It's not just BsAs: it's worldwide. There wasn't this kind of street crime in BsAs fifty years ago or twenty years ago. But the social contract is in tatters -- a consequence of the neoliberal age we live in. A more polarised society, with a growing underclass and a small group of besieged rich and upper-middle-class people. Cops who -- as in NYC -- aren't paid enough and don't live in the areas they patrol.
 
#8
"TomAtAlki" said:
Last March when we were in BA we went into a crowded subt car. A guy with a "hurt leg" started to go down and grabbed my wife on the way down while someone else grabbed for her purse. Neither succeeded. I tried to stop the fall of the guy and felt someone reaching into my pocket and pulled away....
...I agree that this or a variation could easily have happened in any big city. Being alert to these scams will help keep us safe.
The best lesson from this post is to avoid the subway when it is very crowded (weekday morning and evening rush hours) ...or nearly deserted (early in the morning on weekends). I consider linea D much safer than the others, but as I said earlier, anything can happen, anywhere, at anytime. I once felt the fingers going into my pocket on a crowded car on linea C as several men pressed against me. Ironically, that was the one time I had over 1000 pesos in that very pocket! Fortunately, I reacted in time. The men departed quickly at the next stop.
One of the best ways to avoid being a victim of street crime is NOT to look or act so much like a tourist: A baseball cap, golf/polo shirt, tan pants, white athletic shoes, map in hand, and a camera around the neck is a dangerously inviting combination.

Do NOT stop on the sidewalk to look at your map (go into a shop or kiosko) and try not to speak (or be heard speaking) English in the street. It can make all the difference. Also be very careful of boys/young men riding up on bicycles at an intersection and asking for directions or the time. The can grab a cellphone or purse in an instant and ride off. Watch out for young women asking directions on the sidewalk as well. They can be "scouts" sizing you up for their male counterparts (who are likely to be very, very close).
 
#9
Quoting "steveinbsas": ", , , , One of the best ways to avoid being a victim of street crime is NOT to look or act so much like a tourist . . . ."
I completely agree. I've visited Bs.As. frequently, usually for weeks or even months at a time, and have never had a problem. I dress decently -- usually in coat and tie -- but neither ostentatiously nor as a foreigner.
 
#10
Quoting "bigbadwolf": ". . . . the social contract is in tatters . . . ."
So I, too, see it -- worldwide. Though it may indeed be in part "a consequence of the neoliberal age we live in", I think that our civilization is crumbling under pressure from many and varying forces; perhaps, among them, simply the weight of the civilization in complexity and former refinement, whether social, technological, or even artistic: but I wish I really knew!