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Peru 2010 Crime & Safety Report

Western Hemisphere; Western Hemisphere > Peru

Overall Crime and Safety Situation 

 

The U.S. Department of State considers the crime threat in Peru to be critical. Peru is said to have one of the highest reported crime rates in Latin America. The Peruvian National Police (PNP) report that a crime occurs every three minutes in Lima, Peru’s capital.

 

Although violent crime against foreigners is relatively rare and has declined overall compared to last year, it can and does happen. All U.S. and foreign visitors are vulnerable to crime, as they are often perceived to be wealthier than the local populace and more likely to be carrying large amounts of cash and other valuables. While U.S. Embassy personnel and foreign residents normally reside in affluent areas where private security and local police are more effective, their residences and businesses are frequently burglarized. Foreigners are also frequent victims of street crime.

 

Residential burglaries are most common during the day and on weekends or holidays when houses are left vacant. Thieves often gain entry through unsecured entryways, by tricking domestic employees, or use of force when the home appears vacant. The theft of vehicles, including carjacking, and theft of vehicle parts are also frequent crimes.

 

The Peruvian government has made strides in its fight against domestic terrorism, but the threat of attacks in certain parts of the country still exists. Visitors should take every precaution to avoid traveling to those particular areas whenever possible. Please see the section of this report regarding the U.S. Embassy’s restricted travel policy.

 

Political Violence

 

There is not much anti-U.S. sentiment in Peru, though certain portions of Peruvian society, including illegal coca growers, are resentful of U.S. counter-narcotics policies. Others blame U.S. foreign and economic policies for their difficult economic situation. Unrest and disorder are largely temporary and are normally limited to political demonstrations that sometimes become violent. Nationwide transportation strikes are common and may adversely affect travelers for short periods of time. In 2009, there were several national protests against the government or governmental policies by a wide variety of labor groups. All demonstrations, including peaceful ones, should be avoided as the possibility always exists that they may unexpectedly turn violent.

  

The Peruvian government continues to demonstrate success against terrorist groups. In 2009, the government continued to arrest members of the Sendero Luminoso (SL or Shining Path). SL is Peru’s largest and most active domestic terrorist group involved with narcotics trafficking. The SL columns that remain active have become more aggressive due to increased counter-narcotics efforts in the areas of the Upper Huallaga and Apurímac River Valleys. These interior areas of Peru are known for significant narcotics production and trafficking.

 

In 2009, there were no significant terrorist attacks in Lima or in any other major city or tourist destination. The last significant SL attack in Lima occurred in March 2002, in which a car bomb detonated in the parking lot of a shopping mall across the street from the U.S. Embassy in the Monterrico district of the city. The indigenous group, Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Amaru (MRTA), is inactive except for a limited presence in the Department of Junín.  MRTA has not conducted any significant operations since most of its leadership was killed in 1997. The U.S. Department of State has removed MRTA from its list of active terrorist organizations. Additionally, members of Colombia's largest terrorist group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), have reportedly crossed the remote Putumayo River into Peru and engaged in small-unit clashes with Peruvian military and police units who have confronted them. However, there is no information at this time that suggests or indicates that the FARC are conducting terrorist activities or otherwise pose a threat to American interests in Peru.

 

Civil Unrest

 

Travelers to Peru are reminded protests and public demonstrations are frequently reported in city of Lima and in some of the major cities in the interior of the country. Most protests occur spontaneously.  Demonstrations in Lima tend to take place in and around the historic downtown area near the Congress and in areas where the main government buildings are located.

 

Nationwide transportation strikes are common and it affects travelers for short periods of time, however, these social protests are becoming unpopular since commercial activities and citizens in general are affected during those events. Demonstrators often force the temporary closure of streets until they pass, including main streets in downtown Lima; Abancay Avenue, Garcilaso de la Vega Avenue and Paseo de la República Avenue.

 

Political demonstrations take also place in cities throughout the country and sometimes paralyzing road traffic for long periods. The most serious incident occurred on June 5, 2009 when dozens of policemen were killed as a result of a confrontation with natives in the area of “Curva del Diablo”, Fernando Belaunde Terry road (Bagua) while trying to clear the road blocked for more than a month. 

Post-specific Concerns

Many areas of Peru are considered dangerous due to potential terrorist and criminal activity. Traveling by road at night is especially dangerous. As a result, U.S. Embassy Lima enforces a restricted travel policy based on the Peruvian government's declared emergency zones. This policy governs the travel of official U.S. government employees and restricts or prohibits their travel to certain areas of Peru. The following areas have regular security problems, and are considered restricted to Embassy employees, and should be avoided by prudent travelers:

 

Department of Ayacucho:

Restricted: Provinces of La Mar and Huanta. Overland travel from Ayacucho to San Francisco is prohibited.

Permitted: Daylight road travel from Ayacucho to the city of Huanta; stay within the city limits of Huanta. Daylight road travel from Pisco to Ayacucho City.

 

Department of Cusco:

Restricted: 20-kilometer swath of territory contiguous to the Apurímac River and the Department of Ayacucho.

Permitted: Everywhere else, including Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley and the City of Cusco.

 

Department of Huánuco:

Restricted: Provinces of Maranon, Huamalies and Leoncio Prado. Road travel from Huánuco City to Tingo Maria City.

Permitted: Flying into and staying with the city limits of Huánuco and Tingo Maria.

 

Department of Huancavelica:

Restricted: Province of Pampas

Permitted: Traveling by train from Huancayo to Huancavelica City is permitted, and daylight road travel from Pisco to Ayacucho City.

 

Department of Junín:

Restricted: Provinces of Satipo and Concepcion east of the Rio Mantaro.

Permitted: Daylight travel from La Merced to Satipo

 

Department of Loreto:

Restricted: A 20-kilometer wide strip along the entire Peru/Colombian frontier. Travel on the Putumayo River is also restricted.

 

Department of San Martin:

Restricted: Province Tocache

Permitted: Flying only into and remaining within the city limits of Tocache.

 

Department of Ucayali:

Restricted: Province of Padre Abad and Coronel Portillo west of Pucallpa City and west of Ucayali River; Road travel from Pucallpa to Aquaytia and all cities west of Aguaytia.

Permitted: Flying into and remaining within the city limits of Pucallpa and Aguaytia. The province of Coronel Portillo east of the Ucayali River.

 

Nighttime travel via road outside the greater Lima area and other cities is prohibited for government personnel and contractors due to poor highway safety and the threat of bandits, except for nighttime travel by commercial bus along the Pan-American Highway. The only exceptions are travel by commercial bus on the Pan-American Highway is permitted for official or personal travel and travel by personnel in an official vehicle on the Pan-American Highway south from Lima to Paracas or north from Lima to Huacho.

 

There are many contributing factors to these prohibitions. Criminal gangs are known to use roadblocks and rob passengers on passing cars and buses. In addition, highways and other roads in Peru are kept in overall poor condition, creating a serious safety threat to drivers. Peru has one of the highest road fatality rates in Latin America. Information on road conditions and road safety can be found on Peru’s Consular Information Sheet at http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_998.html. 

 

There is no standing travel restriction within the city of Lima. The Regional Security Officer (RSO) considers the following neighborhoods to be relatively secure: Miraflores, San Isidro, Barranco, La Molina, Camacho, San Borja, Monterrico, and the eastern section of Surco. As with any major city there is no guarantee that crime will not occur in these areas and care must still be exercised, particularly at night.

 

Crime is a constant problem in Lima and most other parts of Peru. Street crime is prevalent in most urban areas, particularly in Lima. Sport utility vehicles and sedans with expensive upgrades are the most common type of vehicles targeted by carjackers. The increasingly violent nature of carjacking and the rise in frequency of attempts are cause for concern. Residential burglaries, mostly of single-family homes, occur on a regular basis. Pick pocketing, purse snatching, smash-and-grab robberies, the theft of items from unoccupied vehicles, and the theft of vehicle parts (mirrors, lights, etc.) are common crimes. Gangs of roving youths, known as “piranhas,” typically attack as a group and steal anything of value, including clothes, from their victims in broad daylight on city streets. These gangs often operate with impunity and with little or no fear of the police.

 

In 2009, the police recorded eighteen kidnappings, a noticeable increase from seven kidnappings incidents reported in 2008. The number of ransom kidnappings is highly underreported based on anecdotal information received at the U.S. Embassy. While kidnappings have been primarily short-term and geared toward ATM and bank withdrawals, there has been an increase in long-term kidnappings focused on acquiring large sums of cash. The targets are usually the wealthy or suspected wealthy persons residing in affluent areas. Violent crime has been on the decline over the last few years; however, there has been an increase in crimes of opportunity to include robbery, carjacking and vehicle thefts.

 

Natural Disasters  

 

Senhami, Peru’s national weather bureau, has warned of possible heavy rains and hailstorms in different regions of the central and southern Andes of the country. Senhami has also warned of unusual rains and humidity increase in Lima during the summer time caused by the El Niño weather phenomenon. In the past it has caused damages in the highlands, where several hundred homes lost their roofs in San Bartolomé and the Santa Eulalia valley and also affected the bare hillsides surrounding the city in the districts of Carabayllo, San Juan de Lurigancho, Villa María del Triunfo, Comas and Villa El Salvador. 

              

The area of Collique (Comas district) has also been affected with houses facing structurally damage from mudslides. In January 2010, massive floods left thousands stranded, including many tourists, in the town of Aguas Calientes (base of the Machu Picchu mountain).

 

Earthquakes and tremors are common throughout the year and visitors should be prepared to deal with these and other natural disasters. There have been several devastating earthquakes throughout Peru’s history, and Peru has the highest rating for seismic activity assigned by the U.S. Department of State. In August 2007, the southern part of Peru experienced an 8.0 earthquake that killed 510 individuals and injured thousands. Mudslides and landslides also occur with frequency during the rainy season and often shutdown or close roads for extended periods of time.

 

According to the statistics of the Seismology Directorate of the Geophysical Institute of Peru (IGP), 142 earthquakes were reported in the year 2009, upper than the 133 reported in the year 2008. During the present year, the IGP reported six earthquakes and the most intensive occurred on January 3, 2010 at 15:39 hours on the north coast of Peru with a magnitude of 5.7, intensive IV. The epicenter was 20 km. of Huallanca (Dept. Ancash). The mentioned move caused alarm especially in the cities of Chimbote and Huaraz and was also felt in the cities of Chiclayo and Trujillo. IGP also recalled that in the year 2007 there were 191 earthquakes, including the August 15th earthquake that devastated cities in Pisco and Ica, causing nearly 600 deaths and more that 400 thousand victims. During the mentioned event the telephone communications were disrupted and collapsed drinking water services and electricity in different points of the capital Lima.

 

The most basic advice for earthquake preparedness includes three steps: plan, prepare and practice. In an earthquake-prone region, residents should think about what supplies, tools, information and resources they will need in the event of an earthquake. There are six basic elements people should have as part of their preparedness kit: water, food, first aid supplies, clothing and bedding, tools and emergency supplies (e.g., candles, gloves, hard hats, pry bar, flashlights, matches, sanitation supplies), and specialty items for medical conditions.

 

When developing your emergency plan, take the time to write down exactly what you will do and make a record of critical information (addresses, contact numbers, bank information, etc.). There are two tools that can be downloaded and used to help you plan effectively – the Emergency Financial First Aid Kit and the Personal Disaster Preparedness Guide. Both document templates are available at http://www.operationhope.org/smdev/lf1.php?id=187.

 

Once you have your plan prepared and your emergency supplies assembled, take time to practice your emergency plans. Consider the following:

 

·         What would you do if an earthquake occurred during the workday? Where would you meet? Does everyone have an emergency kit they can use if they are away from home?

·         A good way to check how prepared you are for an emergency is to attempt to evacuate your home with only ten minutes notice.

·         Observe how many essential items (emergency supplies, important papers, food, and clothing) you are able to assemble and depart with in this short time frame.

·         Be honest with yourself and then take steps to correct the deficiencies in the location, accessibility and quantities of your emergency supplies.

·         Practice your emergency plan at least once every six months. Consider running a practice drill during the night or early morning to see if everyone can effectively respond at an inconvenient time to an emergency such as an earthquake.

 

Keep track of the food and water supplies you have on hand and rotate them on a regular basis. It is essential to be familiar with how to prepare and store the food you have selected as part of your emergency supplies. A useful reference is an article entitled Preparing an Emergency Food Supply, Short Term Food Storage found at http://www.fcs.uga.edu/ext/pubs/html/FDNS-E-34-2.html. The article, written by food safety specialists, outlines important tips to keep in mind when purchasing emergency supplies by focusing on how you should be planning to store the food once you have begun to use it.

 

Additional Earthquake Preparedness Resources

 

·         FEMA: http://www.fema.gov/hazard/earthquake/index.shtm

·         Drop Cover Hold On: http://www.dropcoverholdon.org/

·         Terremotos, a California-specific site containing useful guidance in Spanish for earthquake preparedness: http://www.terremotos.org/

·         Red Cross: http://www.redcross.org/services/disaster/0,1082,0_583_,00.html 

·         Red Cross (Spanish): http://www.redcross.org/services/disaster/foreignmat/earthspn.html 

 

Travelers should be sure to consult the U.S. Embassy’s Consular Information Sheet, either through the U.S. Department of State’s webpage at http://www.state.gov/ or the Embassy’s webpage at http://lima.usembassy.gov/.

 

Police Response

 

Peru’s national police force is comprised of approximately 90,000 commissioned and non-commissioned officers. The number of officers is insufficient to cover the internal security of the country and more than 28 million habitants. Many police officers are eager to serve, but do not have the training and equipment necessary to do so effectively. Morale and pay are low and corruption is rampant. As a result, the overall populace views the police negatively. Police have been known to either solicit bribes in order to supplement their salaries. Police officers are present in all major cities and towns, but they are often unable to respond to calls for service and are unable to proactively fighting crime. Despite these challenges, any circumstance involving a violation of the law, including traffic accidents, must be reported to the local police station. Police will not initiate an investigation of any incident until a report has been filed. Foreign visitors who become victims of a crime should contact the Policia de Turismo (tourist police) whenever possible. The tourist police, which can be found in major tourist areas, are among the more knowledgeable and helpful of police units and are more likely to speak English.

Policia de Turismo Contact Information

Country Code: 51

 

Lima

Office: (1) 332-3222

Fax: (1) 431-1668

 

Trujillo

Region: (44) 232-552

Subregion: (44) 221-908

Fax: (44) 207-054

 

Iquitos

Region: (65) 232-453

 

Cusco

Region: (84) 242-611

Telefax: (84) 802-606

Turismo (84) 249-6654

 

Chiclayo

Region: (74) 237-740

Fax: (74) 235-534

Central: (74) 236-700

Turismo: (74) 236-700 ext. 311

 

Cajamarca

Subregion: (76) 822-832, 822-165

Fax: (76) 823-438

 

Huaraz

Region: (43) 721-592

 

Chimbote

Region: (43) 329-205, 321-651

Fax: (43) 346-606

 

Huancayo

Region: (64) 217-458, 234-651

 

Ica

Region: (56) 218-456

 

Ilo

Provincial: (53) 781-331

Fax: (53) 781-212

 

Huánuco

Provincial: (62) 513-262, 513-480

Fax: (62) 781-220

 

Piura

Region: (730) 305-455, (730) 307-650, (730) 326-071

 

 

National Police Emergency 105

 

 

Tourism Police Lima    (1) 423-3500 (Downtown Police)

                                  (1) 243-2190 (Miraflores Police)        

 

Police Stations in Lima

 

San Isidro                     (1) 441-0729

Orrantia             (1) 264-1932

Miraflores                     (1) 445-7943

Monterrico                    (1) 435-0037

La Molina                      (1) 368-1789

Santa Felicia                 (1) 348-0793

Chacarilla                      (1) 372-6614

San Borja                      (1) 225-5188

 

Police Departments in Provinces

 

Trujillo                           (44)232-552/231-708

Chiclayo                       (74) 235-534

Iquitos                          (65) 231-852

Piura                             (73) 326-071

Tumbes                        (72) 523-515

Huaraz                          (43) 427-814/422-948

Arequipa                       (54) 252-688

Cusco                           (84) 231-788  (084) 227783 (Fax)

                                    (84) 235-123 (Cusco Tourism Police)

Ayacucho                     (66)312055  

Puno                            (51) 353-988

 

 

Medical Emergencies

 

In general, emergency medical service is unreliable in Peru. The U.S. Embassy health unit recommends the use of private ambulance services whenever possible. Telephone numbers for these services can be found in local telephone directories. The quality of medical facilities also varies from location to location, and U.S. health insurance is almost never taken. For this reason, treatment may be held up until proof of ability to pay is shown, either by cash or credit card.

 

Health Clinics in Lima

 

Clínica (1) 221-3656

Av. Salazar s/n

Cuadra 3

San Isidro District

 

Clínica San Felipe

Tel: (1) 219-0000

Av. Gregorio Escobedo 650

Jesús Maria

 

Clínica San Felipe Urgent Care Center

Tel: (1) 219-0000 Ext. 718

Av. Javier Prado Este 4841

La Molina

 

Clínica San Borja

Tel: (1) 475-3141, 475-4410

Av. Guardia Civil 337

San Borja District

 

Clínica El Golf

Tel: (1) 264-3300

Av. Aurelio Miro Quesada 1030

San Isidro District

 

Clínica Anglo American

Tel: (1) 616-8900

Av. Salazar s/n

Cuadra 3

San Isidro District

 

Clínica Anglo American Urgent Care Center

Tel: (1) 616-8900

Av. La Fontana 362, La Molina

 

Clínica San Felipe

Tel: (1) 219-0000

Av. Gregorio Escobedo 650

Jesús María

 

Clínica San Felipe Urgent Care Center

Tel: (1) 219-0000 Ext. 718

Av. Javier Prado Este 4841

La Molina

 

Clínica San Borja

Tel: (1) 702-4300

Av. Guardia Civil 337

San Borja District

 

Clínica El Golf

Tel: (1) 319-1500

 

 

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

 

Travelers should maintain a low profile when possible. They should also attempt to dress down and avoid carrying large sums of cash, credit cards, ATM cards, cameras, and wearing expensive jewelry. It is recommended that money be changed at local banks or at established hotels, rather than through the moneychangers that operate in vast number along city streets which have been known to deal in counterfeit currency. Credit card fraud is rampant and many travelers have reported the theft of their cards numbers while traveling in Peru. The U.S. Embassy advises that travelers limit their use of credit cards to paying only for hotel expenses or purchases at well-established businesses.  Travelers should exercise caution when withdrawing money from ATM machines. Criminals have been known to stake out banks and after identifying an individual who has withdrawn cash, either immediately assault them or follow them to another location before committing the robbery. In recent years several high profile Peruvian citizens fell victim to such robberies after being followed from a bank to their house by assailants.

 

Under Peruvian law all persons must carry one form of valid photo identification. Due to the large trade in stolen U.S. passports, travelers are cautioned to avoid carrying their passports whenever possible. Original passports should be locked in a hotel safe or another secure location. Travelers should carry a photocopy of the data/biographic page, the page containing the visa (if needed), and a copy of the Peruvian immigration form received at the port of entry. Additionally, some type of valid original photo identification must also be carried, such as a driver’s license.

 

Tourists should try to travel in groups whenever possible and use radio-dispatched taxicabs rather than public transportation. There are a number of radio-dispatched taxi services available in Lima, all of which provide generally reliable service in sedans. These “radio taxis” offer a higher degree of security since criminals, operating in groups or individually, have been known to pose as typical taxi drivers and prey on unsuspecting individuals.

 

Particular care should be exercised when traveling to and from Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima. The U.S. Embassy has seen a rash of crimes in which thieves smash the car windows of slowly passing or stopped vehicles and steal items of real or perceived value from unsuspecting travelers, such as purses, laptops, backpacks, and luggage. Several U.S. visitors have reported items being stolen from their checked luggage at the international airport. Caution should also be used when placing valuables, specifically electronic items, into checked luggage when traveling through the airports in Peru.

 

There are several competent private security businesses operating in Peru, many of which offer a wide variety of services such as executive protection, private investigations, guard services for large events, armored car services, and physical security for both work and residential locations. The RSO at the U.S. Embassy is available to discuss security concerns and be of assistance to OSAC constituents while during their stay.

 

Further Information

 

U.S. Embassy Lima Regional Security Office: (1) 618-2469

DRSO: Luis Matus

ARSO: Anthony Spotti

ARSO: Pamela Maldonado

ARSO: Abraham Ramirez

ARSO/I: Galo Guerrero

 

U.S. Embassy Operator: (1) 434-3000

Consular Affairs: (1) 618-2518

Marine Post One: (1) 618-2436

 

OSAC Country Council

 

There is an active Country Council in Lima. Prospective members are encouraged to join. Further information can be obtained by contacting the OSAC Lima Country Council at the American Chamber of Commerce at (1) 241-0708.

 

For further information regarding security issues in Peru, visit the Regional Security Office’s internet website at http://lima.usembassy.gov/regional_security_office.html or contact the Regional Security Office of the U.S. Embassy at (1) 618-2469, fax (1) 618-2278 or e-mail RSOLIMA@state.gov. More information is available by calling the U.S. Department of State’s consular information number (202-647-4000) or visiting its website at http://travel.state.gov/. 

 

 

The contents of this (U) report in no way represent the policies, views, or attitudes of the United States Department of State, or the United States Government, except as otherwise noted (e.g., travel advisories, public statements). The report was compiled from various open sources and (U) embassy reporting.

 

Please note that all OSAC products are for internal U.S. private sector security purposes only. Publishing or otherwise distributing OSAC-derived information in a manner inconsistent with this policy may result in the discontinuation of OSAC support.