Uruguay 2013 Crime and Safety Report
Travel Health and Safety; Transportation Security; Stolen items; Theft; Burglary; Murder
Western Hemisphere > Uruguay > Montevideo
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
The crime rate continues to be high by U.S. standards. In Montevideo, petty street crimes, such as pick pocketing, purse snatching, armed robbery, and theft from parked automobiles, are common. Thieves prey on targets of opportunity such as tourists openly carrying valuables, motorists stopped at lights with bags visible on car seats, and parked unattended vehicles. Thieves migrate toward tourist spots such as the Ciudad Vieja (Old City), Avenida 18 de Julio (18 July Avenue), Plaza Independencia (Independence Plaza), and the Mercado del Puerto (Port Market).
There are no “off-limits” areas of Montevideo, but in addition to areas frequented by tourists, disadvantaged neighborhoods suffer from higher crime rates.
Montevideo continues to experience an increase in violent crime, including home invasion robberies and restaurant takeovers. Since late 2012, press reporting has indicated that robberies, violent crimes, and homicides have been increasing. Criminals often resort to violence if victims resist.
In 2012, several embassy homes experienced break-ins or attempted break-ins. Single-family homes are more prone to burglary attempts than apartments. Residential burglaries are a significant problem in the Carrasco, Punta Carretas, and Pocitos areas where many affluent families and foreign diplomats reside. Most incidents involve burglaries while the occupants are away, both during the day and at night. Home invasion robberies have also occurred. Burglars often ring the bell to see if anyone is at home. If there is no answer, they may break in. During the South American summer months (December-March), beach resorts such as Punta del Este attract affluent tourists - mostly wealthy Uruguayans, Argentines, and Brazilians. During this period, petty street crimes and residential burglaries, similar to the types that occur in Montevideo, follow the wealthy to Punta del Este.
Overall Road Safety Situation
Illumination, pavement markings, and road surfaces are sometimes poor. When venturing outside the capital, personnel should always exercise extra caution, as traffic safety is a concern. Although there are a number of factors that feed the problem, chief among them is a severe shortage of police patrols and medical first responders in rural areas. Route 1, which runs between Montevideo and Colonia or Punta del Este, and Route 2, between Rosario and Fray Bentos, are particularly accident-ridden because of heavy tourist traffic. Road accidents rise during the austral summer beach season (December-March), Carnival (mid-to-late February), and Easter week.
Any item left in plain sight in a car invites thieves to break the window to steal the item(s). There has been a noticeable increase in vehicle break-ins in the Pocitos and Punta Carretas neighborhoods. Car interiors should be kept clean and free of items, and parking garages should be used when available. Older cars that do not have disabling technology are prone to auto theft. Motorcyclists have experienced cases of carjackings by persons intent on using the motorcycle to commit further criminal acts. These incidents usually occur while the motorcyclist is stopped at a traffic light.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
Uruguay is a stable democratic republic. While there is anti-American sentiment in some circles, this sentiment rarely, if ever, assumes a violent form.
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
As of January 2013, there were no credible reports of direct terrorist threats against American interests in Uruguay.
There are some political protests that tend to target the U.S. Embassy, but political violence has been minimal to non-existent in recent years. Two areas prone to demonstrations are Plaza Independencia and Avenida 18 de Julio.
There are increased police patrols during periods of high tourist activity in these areas and on occasions when a cruise ship arrives in the summer season; however, there is a minimal police presence in the late evening and early morning hours.
Uruguayan National Police officers are well trained. However, they sometimes face shortages of resources, funding, and technical knowledge needed to counter crime effectively. In addition, Uruguayan law prevents prosecution of minors for non-violent crimes. Many crimes are committed by adolescents, who are released from jail within 24 hours, unless they have committed a violent crime.
Where to Turn to for Assistance if you Become a Victim of Crime
Police response time to emergencies is inconsistent and depends on the location of the emergency, its severity, and the proximity of the nearest police patrol car. The 911 emergency system has improved response time significantly, but resource constraints mean there are not always enough police on duty to respond quickly. Once at the scene of an incident, police are generally polite and helpful. Most police officers, particularly those assigned to patrol duty, speak only Spanish. Tourist police officers may speak limited English.
Police/Fire/Ambulance - 911
SEMM – Dial 159 or 598-2-711-1111
SUAT- Dial 133
UCM- Dial 147
Contact Information for Recommended Local Hospitals and Clinics
Avenida Italia 2420, Montevideo
Bulevar Artigas 1525, Montevideo
Avenida 8 De Octubre 3020
Tel- 598-2- 487- 6666
CDC Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
For health guidance, please visit the CDC at: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/uruguay.htm
Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim
Tourists who are aware of their surroundings, exploring during daylight hours, and not openly displaying cameras, bags, or other valuables will minimize their exposure to street crime.
Visitors should also empty their wallets of unnecessary items to minimize the effects of crime. Do not carry large amounts of cash, multiple credit cards, or your passport. Carry only the money needed for the day, one credit card at most, and a photocopy of your passport’s identification page. Although hotel safes vary, in general, extra cash, credit cards, and passports should be secured in the safe.
Traveling in pairs or in small groups is recommended, especially in tourist areas like the Cuidad Vieja, the Mercado del Puerto area, Plaza Independencia, and around the downtown Montevideo beaches. Uruguayans are very friendly, but visitors should be alert of people intent on creating distractions.
Tourists should stay at reputable hotels in better neighborhood locations. The hotel should provide private security and rooms with good safes and adequate locks on all doors and windows.
As a further precaution, the Regional Security Officer (RSO) advises the use of call-ahead taxis whenever possible.
Residential security precautions include: private security patrols, a centrally-monitored alarm, barred windows with tightly spaced cross-members, high perimeter fences, choosing a home that does not have adjacent vacant lots/parks, owning dogs, attempting to always have someone at home, sufficient exterior lighting at night, etc.
U.S. Embassy/Consulate Location and Contact Information
Embassy/Consulate Address and Hours of Operation
1776 Lauro Muller, Montevideo, Uruguay, 11200
Embassy/Consulate Contact Numbers
Embassy Switchboard (24-hours) – 598-2-1770-2000
Regional Security Office (RSO) – 598-2-1770- 2318
Embassy Website – http://uruguay.usembassy.gov
OSAC Country Council Information
The OSAC Country Council in Uruguay was established in 2007. For more information, contact the Regional Security Office at U.S. Embassy Montevideo.