Uruguay 2015 Crime and Safety Report
Travel Health and Safety; Transportation Security; Stolen items; Theft; Burglary; Carjacking; Riots/Civil Unrest; Anti-American sentiment; Hotels
Western Hemisphere > Uruguay; Western Hemisphere > Uruguay > Montevideo
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
Crime Rating: High
The crime rate is high by U.S. standards. In Montevideo, street crimes (pickpocketing, purse snatching, confrontational robbery, smash-and-grab robbery, and theft from parked automobiles) are common. Thieves prey on targets of opportunity: 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) the Mercado del Puerto (Port Market), and the water-front Rambla. There are increased police patrols during periods of high tourist activity in these areas, especially when a cruise ship arrives in the summer season; however, there is a minimal police presence in the late evening and early morning hours.
Criminals often resort to violence if victims resist. Montevideo continues to experience an increase in violent crime to include home-invasion robberies, restaurant take-overs, and armed robberies of businesses and other locations known to have cash on hand. These criminals are well-armed and brazen. They often wear body armor and do not hesitate to engage the police. Final statistics for 2014 have not yet been released, but press reporting has indicated that robberies and violent crimes have been increasing.
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 of homes while the occupants are away, either during the day or at night. Home invasion robberies also occur. During the summer (December-March), beach resorts like Punta del Este attract affluent tourists - mostly wealthy Uruguayans, Argentines, and Brazilians. During this period, street crimes and residential burglaries, similar to the types that occur in Montevideo, follow the wealthy to Punta del Este.
Any item left in plain sight in a car invites thieves to break the window to steal the item(s), regardless if vehicle is occupied. There has been a noticeable increase in vehicle break-ins in the Pocitos and Punta Carretas neighborhoods. 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. Smash-and-grab thieves tend to target female drivers travelling alone.
Areas of Concern
There are no “off-limits” areas of Montevideo, but disadvantaged neighborhoods, many of which border on areas frequented by Americans, suffer from higher, more violent crime rates.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Uruguay’s rate of traffic deaths per 100,000 population (21.5) is nearly double that of the United States (11.4), according to the World Health Organization. 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. Primary routes between Colonia, Montevideo, and Punta del Este, are particularly accident-ridden because of heavy tourist traffic and high speeds of operation. Road accidents rise during the summer, Carnival (mid-to-late February), and Easter Week.
Public Transportation Conditions
The Regional Security Officer advises the use of call-ahead taxis whenever possible.
Other Travel Conditions
When travelling in a vehicle, keep purses, backpacks, cameras, and electronic devices out of sight. Car interiors should be kept clean and free of items, and parking garages should be used when available.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
Uruguay is a stable democratic republic.
Political Violence Rating: Low
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
Terrorism Rating: Low
While there is anti-American sentiment in some circles, this sentiment rarely, if ever, takes violent form. 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. As of January 2015, there were no credible reports of direct terrorist threats against American interests in Uruguay.
Two areas prone to demonstrations are Plaza de Independencia and Avenida 18 de Julio.
Uruguayan National Police Officers are well trained, but their approach to crime is largely reactive. Police presence on the streets is minimal and provides little in the way of a deterrent. Police sometimes face shortages of resources and funding. In addition, Uruguayan law prevents prosecution of minors for non-violent crimes, thus many crimes are committed by adolescents, who are released within 24 hours. Minors are never tried as adults.
Police response time to emergencies is quick due to a realignment of patrol vehicles and response protocols. The 911 emergency system has improved response time significantly, but resource constraints mean that there may not always be 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.
Crime Victim Assistance
Police/Fire/Ambulance - 911
SEMM – Dial 159 or 598-2-711-1111
SUAT- Dial 133
UCM- Dial 147
Contact Information for Recommended Hospitals/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 vaccine and health guidance, please visit the CDC at: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/uruguay.htm.
Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim
Situational Awareness Best Practices
Tourists who are aware of their surroundings, exploring during daylight hours, and not openly displaying cash or other valuables will minimize their exposure to street 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. Visitors should also avoid carrying unnecessary items to further minimize the effects of crime.
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. 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 de Independencia, and around the downtown Montevideo beaches. Uruguayans are very friendly, but visitors should be alert of people intent on creating distractions.
Precautions for residential burglaries include: private security patrols, a centrally-monitored alarm, grilled windows with tightly spaced cross-members, high perimeter fences, choosing a home that does not have adjacent vacant lots/parks, attempting to always have someone at home, sufficient exterior lighting at night, etc.
U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information
Embassy Address and Hours of Operation
The U.S. Embassy address is 1776 Lauro Muller, Montevideo, Uruguay, 11200
Embassy Contact Numbers
Embassy Switchboard (24-hours) – 598-2-1770-2000
Regional Security Office – 598-2-1770- 2318
OSAC Country Council Information
The OSAC Country Council in Uruguay was established in 2007. For more information, contact the Regional Security Officer at U.S. Embassy Montevideo. To reach OSAC’s Western Hemisphere team, please email OSACWHA@state.gov.