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Argentina 2017 Crime & Safety Report

Western Hemisphere > Argentina; Western Hemisphere > Argentina > Buenos Aires

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Buenos Aires does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED BUENOS AIRES AS BEING A CRITICAL-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Please review OSAC’s Argentina-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.

Crime Threats

Officially reported, country-wide, full range crime statistics became available in April 2016, but the police face tremendous challenges after an approximate eight-year lapse in tracking and reporting statistics, and the accuracy/integrity of reported statistics is difficult to gauge. Media coverage of individual crimes often creates disproportionate emphasis, and public concerns follow suit. Crimes reported to the U.S. Embassy by U.S. citizens reveal they are most often victims of theft or non-violent robbery, principally in the tourist neighborhoods. Street crime in the larger cities (Buenos Aires downtown, greater Buenos Aires, Rosario, Mendoza) is a constant problem for residents and visitors alike. Visitors to Buenos Aires and popular tourist destinations should be alert to muggers, pickpockets, scam artists, and purse-snatchers. Northern suburbs (Vicente Lopez, Olivos, Martinez, San Isidro) and Federal District neighborhoods (Palermo, Belgrano, Nunez) of Buenos Aires have been targeted by criminals.

Criminals are often well-dressed, and crime can occur anytime at any location. Thieves specifically target expensive looking jewelry, watches, cell phones, cameras and backpacks/bags and take unattended purses, backpacks, laptops, and luggage. They will often need only a few seconds to steal valuables. There are numerous reports of robbery of bags off chairs and from in between feet.

Thieves on foot and motorcycles (motochorros) regularly nab purses, backpacks, laptops, and luggage.

While most U.S. crime victims are not physically injured when robbed, criminals may be armed and are known to use force when they encounter resistance. There have been violent and even fatal attacks of foreigners carrying valuables. Favorite targets for armed robberies are banks, restaurants, and businesses dealing in cash or high-value merchandise. Visitors are advised to offer no resistance and immediately hand over everything demanded if confronted. If you are in a restaurant or business that gets robbed, follow the instructions of the robbers and hand over valuables on demand.

Long-term residents have greater exposure than visitors to criminal activity. RSO continues to receive frequent reports of home invasions and robberies. One trend is for criminals to go through neighborhoods and apartment buildings waiting for food delivery people. Many home invasion gangs seek the hoard of cash Argentines frequently keep in their homes. A common tactic is attacking victims upon entry/exit of their residence, enabling criminals to force their way inside. The RSO office has also received reports of victims who were followed home. When staying in a hotel or apartment, it is a good precaution to call the front desk or security to identify uninvited individuals before giving them access.

There have been a small number of reports of the use of date rape drugs in bars.

Criminals target individuals withdrawing cash from ATMs and are known to target customers when exiting banks, following victims to subsequently rob them. Travelers should use caution entering and exiting financial institutions and when using ATMs. Thieves have been known to target persons coming in/out of these locations. Use ATMs in public places (hotel, shopping mall, event venue). If the booth, make sure the door closes securely.

The U.S. Embassy receives frequent reports of stolen passports. Passports and other valuables should be locked in a hotel safe, and a photocopy of your passport should be carried for identification purposes.

In older, traditional neighborhoods (San Telmo, Recoleta, La Boca (home to Caminito street and Boca Juniors soccer stadium)), reports of violent robberies have occurred. Tourists who travel to the La Boca area should limit their visit to the designated tourist street during daylight hours only.

Violent armed robberies have also taken place in the Palermo and Belgrano neighborhoods and the affluent northern suburbs of Olivos, Martinez, San Isidro, and Vicente Lopez.

There have been robberies in isolated areas and occasional burglaries of hotel rooms and rental cars in resort areas, including while vehicles are stopped at convenience stations. Highway robbery largely affects commercial vehicles. The robbery of trucks has mainly occurred on the highways of northern Buenos Aires province, outside the city, and the southern roads of Santa Fe province. Robbers are often referred to as piratas del asfalto (asphalt pirates). A 2013 report from Clarin indicated that 1,628 trucks had been assaulted in this manner.

Cybersecurity Issues

The Argentine government is developing its expertise in combatting cybercrime. Few sophisticated schemes have been uncovered.

Use credit cards only at hotels and major stores/restaurants. Verify with shops and restaurants if credit cards are accepted, as many locations are cash only. Watch bills for fraudulent charges and have information available if you need to contact your credit card company in case of theft or fraud.

Other Areas of Concern

Visitors should be aware that shanty towns (villas) exist in Buenos Aires and other major cities, even adjacent to tourist zones, and should avoid entering these areas.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Traffic accidents are common in Argentina, especially in Buenos Aires, and remain a serious concern. A report produced by the NGO Luchemos por la Vida states that there was a decrease in traffic deaths nationwide: 268 people died in vehicle accidents in 2016 compared to 7,472 in 2015. In Buenos Aires city, the number of fatalities also decreased from 122 deaths (2015) to 109 (2016). Buenos Aires province has the higher rate of traffic-related deaths at 2,457.

Pedestrians should be vigilant when crossing streets and look in both directions, regardless of whether the street is designated one way or the traffic light indicates the right-of-way. Traffic laws are not routinely obeyed, and vehicles often travel at excessive speeds. 

Public Transportation Conditions

Remises (hired car and driver) and radio taxis are the best, most convenient form of public transportation. Remises charge by the kilometer and are reasonably priced. Radio taxis are black and yellow in the capital and white with blue lettering in the provinces, and the commonly have a meter. In town, radio taxis from a reliable location should be utilized whenever possible. Hotels, many restaurants, and shopping centers can call either from established services. After dark, radio taxis or remis should be called from a reliable location. The following, in order of preference, is advised: a) call for a remis or taxi; b) take one from an established stand; or c) hail one on the street (but not in front of a bank).

Travelers should not leave their bags in the care of a taxi driver while they run in to a bank or other location.

Subways, buses, and trains are generally safe, but visitors should be aware of pickpockets and be prepared for work stoppages that may lead to delays.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

A number of scams involving yellow and black taxis have been reported at international airports and around town.

The most frequently reported include a handler at the airport requesting hundreds of pesos (far exceeding the likely fare) from the traveler as they get into the cab. The traveler often assumes s/he is paying a flat rate up front. Upon conclusion of the ride, the driver demands his fare stating that he has no association with the handler and that payment was only to be placed in the cab.

Another scam involves the taxi breaking down on the side of the freeway and another cab coming to pick the passenger up. The first driver demands payment for the whole fare as does the second driver for completing the trip. 

To avoid these scams, pre-arrange transportation or select one of the flat-rate remis services at designated counters inside the airport terminal.

Watch your bags at airports, bus, and ship terminals. In Argentina, officials have publicly acknowledged the theft of valuables and money from checked baggage at Buenos Aires airports. International passengers arriving at Ezeiza airport have been the main targets.

Terrorism Threat

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED BUENOS AIRES AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

There is no recent or significant operational terrorist activity in Argentina. International terrorists used car bombs to destroy the Israeli Embassy in 1992, killing 29 people and a Jewish cultural center (AMIA) in 1994, killing 85 people and injuring hundreds. There have been several instances of minor bombings by indigenous anarchist groups; the last occurring in 2013.   

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED BUENOS AIRES AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Civil Unrest

There are frequent demonstrations in Buenos Aires city downtown, greater Buenos Aires, and other major cities. Most protests are related to domestic economic and political issues, especially labor disputes and price hikes in previously subsidized utility services. U.S. interests are occasionally targeted based on current events and in conjunction with labor protests. Protests can be up to the thousands of participants and often feature piqueteros (a collection of social activist groups whose main tactic is to block roads).

In Buenos Aires, demonstrations most commonly occur at highway access points, the Ministro Pistarini International Airport road, or downtown (the Plaza de Mayo, Casa Rosada, Congress, the obelisk on Avenida 9 de Julio). Protestors generally come from labor unions, unemployed/underemployed/landless movements, student groups, and the political left. While most protests are peaceful, there are hooligan elements that may show up to fight the police and/or engage in vandalism. The use of sound systems, fireworks, and musical instruments is common, as is the burning of tires, effigies and flags. The Macri administration has been proactive in dispersing demonstrations, especially when roads are blocked, and as such there has been a slight increase in clashes with police. 

In Decembers from 2001-2013, there was annual looting of stores and violence throughout Argentina. For additional information, please review OSAC’s report: “Seasonal Looting Returns to Cordoba, Argentina.” The government took countermeasures – both police and humanitarian – following these events, and since 2014 the annual December looting has not recurred.

Religious/Ethnic Violence

One media report noted the use of Molotov cocktails and gun fire in early 2015 in Chubut province. This was an anti-Semitic attack against an Israeli hostel owner and Israeli tourists staying at the hostel, attributed to local residents. No serious injuries were reported. 

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Argentina experiences occasional heavy rains and flooding along the coast (including parts of Buenos Aires) and in low-lying parts of the interior (Santa Fe province).

Western/northwestern provinces (San Juan, Mendoza, Salta, Jujuy, Tucuman) periodically have earthquakes.

Economic Concerns

Argentina continues to suffer from high inflation, although it appears to be slowing in comparison to recent years.

Illegal currency exchange has diminished considerably since the government unified exchange rates in December 2015. Argentina is a hub for counterfeit currency, with fake U.S. dollars and Argentine pesos circulating in significant numbers. Traditionally, fake currency is brought in from other neighboring countries. See link below for currency recognition tips. Visitors should patronize banks and ATMs, avoid street money changers, and be aware that fake peso exchange occasionally occurs in taxis. This happens when the customer pays the driver and the driver quickly exchanges the good note for a fake one and then declares that a fake note has been passed to him. Visitors should watch the driver’s hands and avoid paying with large bills.  

Do not buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the U.S., if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law.

Personal Identity Concerns

Argentina has a very public campaign against femicide and gender-based violence, “Ni Una Menos.”

Occasional incidents involving anti-Semitic violence occur, such as the Chubut attack and an incident in 2016 involving students from the German School in Buenos Aires on vacation in Bariloche. The students dressed as Nazis and got into fights with some students who were Jewish.

Drug-related Crimes

Argentina is a transshipment point for cocaine from Bolivia, Peru, and Colombia. Counter-narcotics efforts in Mexico and Colombia are pushing traffickers into Argentina, according to Argentine officials.

Marijuana, the bulk of which is imported from Paraguay and used for domestic consumption, continues to be the most widely abused illegal drug in Argentina.

According to official Argentine government figures, DEA reporting and open source information, significant amounts of cocaine are imported into Argentina from Bolivia, Peru, and Colombia. Cocaine use has risen sharply, and the country has the second largest internal cocaine market in South America after Brazil. The United Nations Office of Drug Control's (UNODC) World Drug Report 2013 placed Argentina cocaine abuse at just under 1% for users 15-65 years of age. However, according to the same report in 2011, Argentina had the highest prevalence of cocaine use (2.6%) in South and Central America among the same age group. Based on UNODC estimates, Argentina is home to 25% of the cocaine users in South and Central America (740,000 users), second only to Brazil. Cocaine remains by far the leading drug for which Argentines seek help at treatment centers, and the use of cocaine base is a growing problem among the economically disadvantaged. A cheap, readily-available, and mentally debilitating drug paco (a derivative of cocaine production similar to crack) is consumed in Argentina’s poorer neighborhoods. The use of cocaine products in Argentina has increased concurrently as the country has increasingly been used as a transshipment zone for cocaine from South America to expanding cocaine markets in Europe, West Africa, and to a lesser extent, the Far East. Cocaine trafficking is the most challenging drug threat faced by Argentine authorities. Large seizures of cocaine in Europe have been linked to Argentina, and individual carriers of small quantities from Argentina to Europe are intermittingly discovered. There is evidence of sustained use by traffickers of light aircraft to bring drugs into the country across the long northern borders with Bolivia and Paraguay. The 2016 United Nations Office of Drug Control (UNODC) World Drug Report reports Argentina (among others) as the non-European country most frequently mentioned as a point of departure for cocaine shipments over the period 2009-2014 in Latin America.

Kidnapping Threat

Express kidnappings have been reported. Victims are often targets of opportunity, profiled due to their appearance of perceived wealth and the vehicles they drive. In some scenarios, they are made to withdraw as much money as possible from an ATM, and then their family or co-workers are contacted and told to deliver all the cash that they have on hand or can gather in a couple of hours. Once the ransom is paid, the victim is usually released unharmed.

Virtual kidnappings (fake telephone kidnappings) are a common scam in which criminals use stolen phones or otherwise obtained personal data to contact family members and co-workers claiming to have kidnapped the owner of the phone. This has happened while the alleged kidnapping victim was in the movie theater, on an international flight, or just after robbing their cell phone. Memorizing phone numbers and immediately letting family members know you are alright is important in interrupting this cycle.

Police Response

Expatriates can generally expect better police response and less harassment from police than in many other Latin American countries. Police uniforms vary from municipality to municipality, and there are a number of federal security forces that augment the local police periodically.

Checkpoints are common, especially around Buenos Aires, and drivers must have all documentation, including a copy of passport or Argentine identification card, driver’s license, vehicle registration and proof of third-party liability insurance.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

Argentine law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government of Argentina generally observes these prohibitions; however, there are occasional reports of the police arresting and detaining citizens arbitrarily. Individuals detained by the police should ask to contact the Embassy. Any irregular police procedures should be reported to the Embassy.

Crime Victim Assistance

In Buenos Aires, the Tourist Police (within the Argentine Federal Police) have been very responsive and assisted many tourists with language services to file police reports. Recently however, the unit has suffered manpower issues and become ineffective.

Police: 911

PFA - Argentine Federal Police
Switchboard:  4-346-7000
HQ Departamento Central de Policía Av. Moreno 1550 - CABA – Buenos Aires City.

Bomberos (Fire Department)
Tel: 911/100
Av. Belgrano 1547, CABA – Buenos Aires City

Tourist Police (Comisaría del Turista)
Switchboard: 4346-5748
Av. Corrientes 436 -  CABA – Buenos Aires City

PNA - Prefectura Naval Argentina (Coast Guard)
Switchboard: 4318-7000/7400/7500/7600
HQ’s Edificio Guardacostas Av. Eduardo Madero 235; CABA – Buenos Aires City

Police/Security Agencies

GNA – Gendarmería (Nacional de Argentina) – Border Patrol

  • Policia de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires – Buenos Aires City Police
  • MOS – Ministry of Security
  • PBA – Policía de la Provincia de Buenos Aires – Buenos Aires Provincial Police
  • PFA – Policía Federal (de Argentina) – Argentine Federal Police
  • PNA – Prefectura (Nacional de Argentina) – Coast Guard
  • PSA – Policía de Seguridad Aeroportuaria - Airport Police

 

Medical Emergencies

Pharmacies are comparable to those in the U.S., and well-trained medical professionals are plentiful. Public hospitals are excellent for treating trauma; for any less serious medical needs, private clinics are highly recommended.

Municipal Emergency Medical Service (for transport to a public hospital): 107/911 or 4923-1051/9

Ambulance Service: Vittal: 0810-333-8888/4-000-8888 /4805-4545.

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

Buenos Aires City

  • Hospital Alemán: 4827-7000; Av. Pueyrredón 1640
  • Sanatorio Trinidad: 4- 127-5555; Cerviño 4720
  • Sanatorio de los Arcos: 5-239-4525; Av. Juan B. Justo 909
  • Hospital Fernandez (Public Hospital): 4-808-2600; Cerviño 3356

 

Buenos Aires Province

  • Sanatorio Las Lomas (Tricare Approved), 4-708-5000, Diego Carman 555, San Isidro
  • Sanatorio de la Trinidad: 4898-6700; Av. Fondo de la Lengua 851, San Isidro
  • Hospital Municipal de San Isidro (Public Hospital): 4-743-0956; JJ Diaz 818, San Isidro
  • Sanatorio San Lucas: 4742-8888; Belgrano 369, San Isidro
  • Hospital Zonal de Agudos y Crónicos Dr. Cetrángolo (Public Hospital); 4-791-2090; Italia 1750 Vicente López.
  • Clínica Olivos; 4-796-3000, Av. Maipú 1661; Olivos

 

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

One instance of Zika virus was reported in Argentina.

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Argentina.

OSAC Country Council Information

The Buenos Aires Country Council currently meets quarterly during the year and has approximately 60 members. Please contact OSAC’s Western Hemisphere team with any questions or to join.  

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

Avenida Colombia 4300, CABA, 0121
Hours of Operation: 0800-1800

Embassy Contact Numbers

Switchboard:  +54-11-5777-4533
RSO:  +54-11-5777-4298
Website: https://ar.usembassy.gov/

Embassy Guidance

Private American citizens traveling to Argentina should register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to ensure they receive pertinent updates and notices.

Additional Resources

Argentina Country Information Sheet