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Uruguay 2017 Crime & Safety Report

Western Hemisphere > Uruguay; Western Hemisphere > Uruguay > Montevideo

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Montevideo 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 MONTEVIDEO AS BEING A HIGH-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

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

Crime Threats

Street-level crime (pickpocketing, purse snatching, assault, armed robbery, general theft) is common in the Montevideo. During the summer tourism season, crime typically migrates with the population to popular destinations (Punta del Este, Colonia del Sacramento). Criminals prey on targets of opportunity, to include tourists openly carrying valuables, motorists stopped at traffic lights with valuables visible within the vehicle, vacant homes, and unattended parked vehicles. Criminals operate within popular tourist areas of the capital (Ciudad Vieja, Avenida 18 de Julio, Plaza Independencia, Mercado del Puerto) and other popular areas within country. Police typically increase patrols during periods of high tourist activity in these areas, especially during the visits of cruise liners in the summer. However, only partial police presence remain into the late evening and early morning hours.

General theft remains common in Montevideo. Visitors should be alert to people who might be intent on creating distractions for pickpockets. Ministry of Interior (MOI) reporting indicated a 4% increase in reported theft since 2015 to 3,709/100,000 inhabitants. Criminals tend to target individuals openly carrying valuables, unattended personal belongings, and vehicles with any items, valuable or not, left in plain view. 

Uruguay continues to experience a significant level of violent crime. Criminals are well-armed, brazen, and do not hesitate to resort to violence if victims resist or if the police attempt to intervene. MOI statistics for 2016 indicate that violent crime has decreased since 2015. In Montevideo, homicides decreased 15.6% at a rate of 11.07/100,000 inhabitants. Of those, 40% were derivative of armed robbery. Armed robbery decreased 4.7% to 1,239/100,000 inhabitants. Attempted murder nationwide increased 7.3% to 3.1/100,000 inhabitants.

Residential burglaries are a frequent problem. MOI reporting indicated that residential burglaries increased 5.7% since 2015 to 14.5/100,000 inhabitants. Single-family residences are more vulnerable to burglary than apartments. The neighborhoods of Carrasco, Punta Carretas, and Pocitos experience the largest number of residential burglaries due to the presence of affluent residents. Most incidents occur while the occupants are away, though burglaries of occupied residences are not uncommon. Precautions for residential security include the use of private security patrols, a centrally-monitored alarm system, grilled windows with tightly spaced cross-members, high perimeter fences, exterior lighting, and residences without adjacent vacant lots or parks.

Visitors should stay at reputable hotels in the Punta Carretas, Pocitos, or Carrasco areas of Montevideo and outside of Montevideo. The hotel should provide private security and rooms with safes and adequate locks on doors/windows. Although the quality of hotel safes varies, cash, credit cards, and passports should always be secured in the safe.

Traveling in pairs or in small groups is recommended, especially in tourist areas (Ciudad Vieja, Mercado del Puerto, Plaza Independencia).

Other Areas of Concern

Disadvantaged neighborhoods, many of which border areas frequented by Americans, suffer from higher crime rates and more violence. These areas include Casabo, Cerro Norte, Casavalle, Borro, Marconi, 40 Semanas, and Hipodromo.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Uruguay experienced a 14.1% decrease in transit-related fatalities, and a 10% decrease in transit-related injuries from 2015 to 2016, according to the Uruguayan National Highway Safety Administration. Motorcyclists and bicyclists accounted for 70% of transit-related fatalities. Poor illumination, inadequate pavement markings, and substandard road surfaces are contributing factors to traffic accidents.

When travelling outside of Montevideo, extra caution should be exercised to mitigate traffic safety concerns. There is a reduced level of police patrols and first-responder availability in rural areas. Primary routes between Colonia, Montevideo, and Punta del Este are particularly vulnerable due to heavy traffic and well-constructed highways that offer greater opportunity for speed-related accidents. Traffic accidents typically increase during the summer due to the increased volume of tourists and holiday-related alcohol consumption.

For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”

Public Transportation Conditions

Taxis, public buses, and remise services are safe to use. The use of clearly marked taxi stands and online apps (voyentaxi.uy) are recommended over hailing a cab on the street. Uber entered the Montevideo market in 2016. Some Uber drivers were harassed by the local taxi community until regulations were put into effect.

Terrorism Threat

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

Anti-American/Anti-Western Sentiment

While there is anti-American sentiment in some circles, this sentiment rarely, if ever, takes violent form. Occasional political protests target the U.S. Embassy, but political violence against the Embassy or U.S. interests has been minimal/non-existent in recent years. As of January 2017, there were no credible reports of direct terrorist threats against American interests in Uruguay. 

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

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

Civil Unrest

Most demonstrations in Montevideo are peaceful and non-violent. Although public law requires a permit to demonstrate, this is typically not enforced by local police. Demonstrations often take place at Plaza Independencia and along Avenida 18 de Julio.

Police Response

The Uruguayan National Police have a trained and capable response force. Their approach to policing is largely reactive and does little to deter street crime and burglaries. Police sometimes face shortages of resources and funding. In addition, Uruguayan law prevents prosecution of minors for non-violent crimes, so many crimes are committed by adolescents who are released within 24 hours.

The Centro de Comando Unificado (CCU) is the national 911 system. The CCU continues to improve its capabilities to respond to incidents but is hampered by high volumes of non-emergency calls. These calls frequently result in wait times of up to five minutes before a caller with a true emergency is connected with a dispatcher. There is limited availability of English-speaking dispatchers. Once dispatched, police response time to incidents is generally fast. Most police officers, particularly those assigned to patrol duty, speak only Spanish.

Crime Victim Assistance

Police/Fire/Ambulance: 911

Medical Emergencies

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

Hospital Británico

Avenida Italia 2420, Montevideo

Tel: 598-2-487-1020

 

Asociación Española

Bulevar Artigas 1525, Montevideo

Tel: 1920-7000

 

Hospital Militar

Avenida 8 De Octubre 3020, Montevideo

Tel: 598-2- 487- 6666

 

Ambulance Services

SEMM: 159 or 598-2-711-1111

SUAT: 133

UCM: 147

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

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

OSAC Country Council Information

The Montevideo Country Council currently meets once a year and has approximately 15 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

Embassy of the United States of America
1776 Lauro Müller
Montevideo, Uruguay, 11200

Embassy Contact Numbers

Embassy Switchboard (24-hours): 598-2-1770-2000

Regional Security Office: 598-2-1770-2318

Website: http://uruguay.usembassy.gov

Additional Resources

Uruguay Country Information Sheet