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Margarita Island crime rate, robberies, murder

Discussion of all things related to Margarita Island or Venezuela.

Moderators: Walter's Tours, mig-admin


Posts: 4
Location: Margarita
We were robbed in our house in Margarita (El Cardon region) at gunpoint by 4 scum December 2007, one sexually assaulted my partner, very nasty and they used violence. They had three cars waiting outside and were organized. Three of our neighbours were also robbed at gunpoint in 2007. It is endemic now and much worse under Chavez. The Guardia Nacional police may have been involved in our robbery. Every week there are house robberies like this some nastier and sometimes they clear your whole house using a removals lorry.

There are about 4.5 murders a week giving Margarita with a population of 500,000 a murder index of 46.8 nearly the highest in the world, search wikipedia for "murder rate" to see international rates. A very dangerous place, tourist robberies are common too, do not go there. The police don't catch them, so the crooks can do what they like. They didn't even take fingerprints at our robbery and told us not to bother to make a report.

Post Thu Apr 03, 2008 8:40 pm
mig-admin Site Admin

Posts: 1168
Location: Toronto, Canada
I'm sorry to hear some scumbags invaded your home and used such violent tactics. Its a sad thing that garbage like that exists in our world. Your story sounds like others I've heard from the island. An organized group using violence to rob pre-selected homes.

Crime has risen since Chavez took power. This is evident across all of Venezuela and unfortunately on MI. There has been an increase in murders on MI as compared to previous years but I find it hard to believe that your number of 4.5 murders per week to be accurate. Please provide evidence to support your claim.

I just returned from MI on March 26 after having spent 3 weeks there. I stayed at Hotel Maria Luisa which is located in a "red" district. Talking with the locals from this area and other areas I was told about a number or murders that occurred prior to March 5 but heard of none that occurred during my stay (Mar 5-26). Based on what I was told these murders were gang related. During the past year there has been an influx of gang members to Margarita.

Post Fri May 16, 2008 6:09 pm

Posts: 4
Location: Margarita
The figure of 4 to 5 murders a week was given to me by a local Margaritanian businessman with many contacts in the island. He was making a point that murders never used to be anywhere near so common as now. As he remembers several years ago there would be maybe only one a month.

It may be hard to get proper evidence since I doubt the Police would release it or even may lie. Being a tourist center they obviously won't want the real truth public. Some further idea based on real evidence can be gained from the online papers: elsoldemargarita.com.ve and especially diariocaribazo.net/regionales.html which often shows graphic photos of dead bodies but doesn't seem to keep a record online of historical articles.

I agree that I haven't given any concrete evidence of 4.5 per week. It is an opinion, however I feel sure that Margarita Island is not a safe place by any standards. We were continually hearing about nearby robberies and murders much more than you would in the UK.

Post Sat May 17, 2008 12:22 pm

Posts: 4
Location: Margarita
Just to add a little more to this, I spoke to a local pet shop owner who had been robbed in his house at gunpoint recently, "he said, those here who have not been robbed are those waiting to be robbed", this is the local saying. He thought perhaps 50% of people had been robbed. It's endemic. He said to me don't leave the island, robbery is normal, you'll get used to it. Other people said the same but I didn't accept that, next time it could have been be fatal.

Some of these gangs are raping victims too as a recent report in the local paper diariocaribazo.net stated. The police who came to our house after the robbery told us 95% of robbers don't kill anybody. Great I thought, that's nice to know but it doesn't erase the nightmare. They tie you up, put a pillowcase over your head and threaten death to get information. Obviously it is important not to resist and make sure they get something so they leave happy.

Post Sat May 17, 2008 11:23 pm

Posts: 23
Location: Margarita Island

I too owned a house for awhile and was robbed. eveyone I knew at the time I moved here said "the last thing you want to do on Margarita is buy a house". I didn't listen, so I am back into an apartment. DO NOT BUY A HOUSE!!! no matter what area or security you may hire!


Posts: 4
Location: Margarita Island, of course

Resper:

The problem here is your assumptions with respect to crime statistics and relative safety. It is a fact that some places on Margarita are much more dangerous than others, and some places are safer than others.

Look at Ciudad Carton, Villa Rosa, Los Cocos, La Guardia, downtown Porlamar, etc., and you'll find plenty of crime to talk about. The vast majority of murders on this island take place in these locations, but the way you quote your statistic about murders it gives the impression that we're all in the same amount of danger. We're not. The fact that people get killed in Ciudad Carton is irrelevant to people living in Costa Azul.

Unfortunately, Playa Cardon has a reputation as one of the worst areas on the east coast. Three years ago I was warned repeatedly not to consider anything in that area, and your report of crime in that area is simply proof that I got good advice. I don't know why it's so bad, but at the very least it's got the problems that all the communities on the North East coast have: They are tourist areas for foreigners, and the bad guys know the people they're assaulting or robbing are probably going to have money because they're foreigners... and more important- they're going to get on a plane long before they could be asked to testify against the person who committed the crime.

The bad guys know it, and the police know it. So... why does it surprise you that the police aren't enthusiastic about finding someone? You're surprised that they didn't dust for prints??? What would they do with fingerprints? You think they have money to do things like investigate crimes???

Seriously- the cops don't have money.

Look at the municipality of Maneiro: For all security services their budget this year is BsF 210k per year. Got that? That's salaries, cars, equipment, everything. In comparison, the mayor's budget for entertainment is over BsF 300k per year, and the total budget is Bsf 92 Million per year. You're up in Arismendi, which has a lower budget, so what kind of budget do you think the police there have? This happens to be an election year, and the amount of money being spent on security is being discussed heatedly... I wouldn't be surprised to see spending on security increase to 10% of the entire budget within a year or so, but for now it's practically nothing.

[Any further along this line and this will degenerate into a political discussion. Suffice to say that a major source of problems is lack of funds for the police to do their jobs.]

OK? Police aren't paid very much, and they're already armed, and they know the system. Does it surprise you that some of them are robbing people? This is the environment you live in, so deal with it. I know many people who have never been robbed here, and I doubt if they ever will because they have an intrinsic understanding of how things work here and they are proactive about their security.

Keep in mind that the average foreigner comes in here with far, far more money than the entire family of most Venezuelans will ever see in this lifetime... and they don't have a clue about how rich they are compared to these people. They see Venezuelans living in nice places and driving nice cars and they think it's normal and that they can do the same and live here without being street smart. That's a major mistake. In this culture you're expected to be aware and on your guard, and unfortunately most foreigners aren't.

After foreigners get robbed or assaulted they start to hear all about the horrible crime problems here, and after that they tend to live in fear... but it doesn't have to be that way. The biggest problem is that most foreigners come here thinking that this place is some kind of Shangri-La. It isn't. It's just like many other places in the world, and while there are good areas and bad areas, one always has to be proactive about security.

I advise non Spanish-speaking clients to buy an apartment in a good building in a good area... and they often look at me and say "no, don't fancy a flat, I want a house." This is the kind of attitude I'm talking about- the refusal to listen to good advice. Of course, the real estate agents are going to tell them that the house is perfectly safe, nobody has problems here, there isn't any problem with crime, etc., but they just want your money. People listen to the things they want to hear.

I had one client who bought an apartment in an area not suitable for foreigners... over my objections. As far as he was concerned, it was just too good of a deal to let go... until he'd bought the place and spent enough time there to see what kind of neighborhood he'd got into. His wife refused to live there after getting a look at the area and hearing some of the stories. Did he listen to good advice after that? No, he came back and decided to buy a house. No Spanish at all- he can't function without someone to translate for him, but he has money and that can and will trump common sense.

Since I'm on a rant, I'm going to make a slight digression:

Almost every English-speaking foreigner I know living here on Margarita spends lots of time and energy trying to get the lowest rock-bottom price on anything and everything. The only thing they spend more time on is complaining about the extremely poor quality of work they finally wind up with. The ones who can't speak the language think everyone is trying to take advantage of them, even when it's understood that the price quoted is often negotiable. To them, it's the "gringo tax" and they aren't going to pay it! (The ones who learn the language tend to fit in and learning the system.)

The problem is that workmen who do above-average work charge above-average prices no matter what country they're in. They're good and they know it. But this must be never-never land. The expats here... they want to pay the low-ball quote from last year that they heard about in a bar one night... and as soon as they hear a reasonable quote for quality work they start screaming about the "gringo tax" and often they insult the tradesman in the discussions about price. When one refuses to pay for quality, one gets junk and problems.

Look at various Margarita discussion forums with the bitching about poor quality of work, the workmen don't show up on time, etc., etc., etc. I'd say that 80% of it is the fact that they're too tight to pay decent workmen the correct price to have the job done right. I've got tradesmen who show up when they say they will, do a proper job and clean up their mess when they're done... But for this kind of professional service you pay the going rate for good work. Do most of the foreigners do that? No- they buy the half-assed low-priced work.

Now- the reason I digressed:

Guess what: when it comes to security, refusing to pay for quality work is even MORE common. I cannot tell you how many times I've pointed out bars on windows and doors that were not adequately secured (meaning that the bars could be removed with a pry-bar and about 10 seconds of work) and was ignored. Spend money on a decent alarm system? Hell no! A nice whole-house system with cameras that post photos to the internet (you can look in on your house from anywhere in the world at any time) and have alarm functions that ring your cell phone or call a security company can be installed for about $5000.

Do the foreigners spend the money? No, not until after they get robbed.

Resper, I'm not picking on you, but you bought a house in the wrong place and you're paying the price. I'm willing to bet your house isn't very secure at all, and I suggest that you have the physical problems fixed, put in a decent security system and get a shotgun. The physical security measures slow them down, the alarm and surveillance system gives you some advance warning of what's happening, and the shotgun speaks the only language the malditos truly understand. Usually one shot is enough to spread the word that your home is not a good place to rob. If you kill someone INSIDE YOUR HOME you're not going to go to jail. You'll have to hire a lawyer and spend some money, but you won't go to jail.

Of course, you could always buy a nice apartment in a good building in Pampatar or Costa Azul, put a multi-lock portal on the door and not worry about home invasion or expensive security systems... Just a thought.

Is Margarita Island one of the most dangerous places in the world with one of the highest murder rates in the world? Absolutely not. I've been to many places, and I can tell you from experience that this island isn't bad at all. There are more than a few places in the UK that are as bad or worse than anything here on Margarita. You happen to be living in an area (El Cardon) with serious security problems. You should quit complaining and take responsibility for yourself and your partner. Be proactive about your personal security.

You could always move away from Margarita, but no matter where you move to you'll have to be proactive about your security. The 1950's are gone forever, and crime is getting worse *everywhere* in the world.

Seriously, though- claiming that this island has one of the highest murder rates in the world is silly. Really, really silly.

mig-admin Site Admin

Posts: 1168
Location: Toronto, Canada
BulletProof wrote:
I know many people who have never been robbed here, and I doubt if they ever will because they have an intrinsic understanding of how things work here and they are proactive about their security.


Based on discussions with a number of individuals I think this statement says a lot. I'm not a rich guy but by comparision many locals think I'm wealthly. Owning a house greatly would greatly increase the risk of becoming a target just because of that perception. Taking proactive measures to decrease the risk would have to be a must and this can't be done without a good understanding of how things are. We're talking about South America and things are different there than in North America or the UK. While visiting the mainland I talked with a canadian who had been living in Ciudad Bolivar for many years. He was telling me how him and his neighbours were routinely dealing with robberies and attempted robberies. The crooks were coming around almost every night looking for opportunities. It seems to be a fact of life there and they do what they can to deal with it.

Post Tue May 20, 2008 7:50 pm

Posts: 4
Location: Margarita Island, of course

You went to Ciudad Bolivar? Wow. That place has a really ugly reputation even within Venezuela, which is saying a lot. I don't think the worst place on Margarita even comes close to the general conditions in Ciudad Bolivar.

Remember: Margarita is an Island. The security services here can shut this island down tight, and they do occasionally. Crime here is NOTHING like it is on the mainland. Yes, there is crime, but it's all relative. There are good areas, not good areas, and bad areas. The richest closed community on the Island (Ranchos de Chana) never gets robbed because it's almost impossible to get to except by boat. I used to live in a gated community (Loma Dorada) that's across the highway from Achipano. It was a nice place but there was a problem with crime because of the bad neighborhood close by.

Being proactive about security means not being flashy or ostentatious in your possessions, having a secure home (good physical security) and being aware of your surroundings at all times. That's not a silver bullet, but it cuts way down on what you'll have to deal with.

Driving a Hummer is stupid. It's the same as painting a sign on the front of your house that says "I can afford an $80,000 car. Come rob me." Buy a Toyota Autana or 4Runner if a large SUV is needed, but don't display bling. Likewise, realize that wearing a Rolex in public is stupid when you're in a country where the average household income is less than $3000 per year.

Houses here tend to be average on the outside, because the owners choose to spend their money on the inside of the house. Putting on a display for the world is vain and foolish.

It's not that foreigners can't own homes, the problem is with foreigners who can't speak Spanish and don't understand the culture or the attitudes of the people. A foreign guy I know built a house last year, and all the bedrooms are on the second floor. At the top of the stairs is a heavy steel sliding door that fits into the wall when not in use. At night the steel door is locked and closes off the stairs with a steel wall. If someone breaks in the alarm is going to sound but the bad guys won't be able to get to the people... who will have plenty of time to call the police and anyone else they want to. They speak Spanish well enough to call anyone.

Unless you actually stay in the house (or have a part in building it- like me) you'd never know that door is there because it's hidden behind a wood panel during the day, and I don't think the maid even knows it's there. THAT is security.

If you want a house, move here and buy a good apartment. The apartment will retain it's value, and you can look for a good piece of land once you've gotten to know the island well. Buy the land and build the house you want. You will get a better home the way you want it for less money, and it's a good investment. If you can't speak Spanish well enough to deal with the builders and architects, you probably shouldn't be living in a house. Building your own house means you get to create good physical security as part of the construction process- like the steel door I mentioned earlier. You'll also get to put the house in a good area (assuming that you can find the terrain to build on), so that is a factor as well.

Post Tue May 20, 2008 11:01 pm
mig-admin Site Admin

Posts: 1168
Location: Toronto, Canada
BulletProof wrote:
You went to Ciudad Bolivar? Wow. That place has a really ugly reputation even within Venezuela, which is saying a lot. I don't think the worst place on Margarita even comes close to the general conditions in Ciudad Bolivar.


Now someone tells me! I went there with a local from Puerto Ordaz during the week of Semana Santa. There weren't very many people to be seen. We drove around a couple neighbourhoods. The one thing that caught my attention was having to buy beer through iron bars at a local store. Reminded me of Buffalo, NY. Other that that and a few drug dealers along the Rio Orinoco I didn't see anything that concerned me. Did have an interesting chat with a local beggar. Turns out he used to be a professor at the local university but got involved with cocaine and he lost everything.

Post Mon May 26, 2008 7:56 pm

Posts: 4
Location: Margarita
Regarding the 4.5 homicides a week I mentioned at the top of this topic, there is now some firm evidence to back it up. There is an analysis of press reports of homicides from El Sol de Margarita at http://nerveplexus.com/Muertos/ It is only a 7 week period but you can get some idea. The report suggests 4.7 and places Margarita higher in murder rate than the mainland.

For such a small population (400,000) this is a lot of homicides and works out at 61.3 per 100,000 people per year, the highest in the world when compared with http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_rate#2000s

A high homicide rate tends to indicate high rates for other crimes too and this certainly fits with my experience and our neighbours.

By the way Rancho de Chana may be safer as Bulletproof suggests but unless you stay in there all the time you will be subject to the same high risk as the rest of us when venturing out. I've heard of robberies there in any case.

Post Tue May 27, 2008 4:59 pm
mig-admin Site Admin

Posts: 1168
Location: Toronto, Canada
7 recent weeks of stats cannot be used to derive a statistical murder rate. Putting the imformation on a webpage does not give it any more credibility either. It is irresponsible to publish such big conclusions in a public form as it does a disservice to the readers.

Having said that, its interesting to see the reports as published in El Sol. Those are indeed facts. One thing I learned during my last trip is that there has been a recent increase in gang violence. Based what I told it accounted for murders that took place in Feb/Mar. Many of the published reports suggest that this is still the trend.

Post Wed Nov 26, 2008 1:45 am

Posts: 1
After many vists, I lived on MI for six months, during that time I enjoyed myself being single, minding my own business but eventually the gringos and locals with their buy my condo etc.
This I did not want, during this time I met a american thief, white collar crap. He had stolen 1,5 mil from a bank, met a sweetheart and she in turn had removed his dinero, not all of it, as he had spent mucho buying friends.
He tried suicide but failed then put the hit on me for recovery.
Met other scam artists, my point being MI is a scam mostly by Gringos that have sunk a lot of monies into real estate, bars etc. Go and enjoy but watch out.
I will go back when Chavez is a memory and the people have their country back as it is so wonderful BEWARE

Post Fri Mar 12, 2010 6:24 pm

Posts: 1
Location: Porlamar
The homicide rate runs around 300 - 400+ per annum now, approx 1 per day! Should anyone have any further doubts I suggest they learn a modicum of Spanish and log onto EL CARIBAZO Newspaper's 'Sucesos' page each morning. CARIBAZO even shows the corpses !! Neat. If that isn't a record for an Island in the Sun, do let me know!

http://www.diariocaribazo.net/noticias04.html :shock:

Post Wed Mar 24, 2010 4:26 am

Posts: 152
I find it curious that you registered here just to post this message.
And I seriously doubt you're Latino - you write like a native English speaker and I do not mean it as a compliment.

Just an observation.
:roll:

Post Sun Mar 28, 2010 12:17 am

Posts: 134
Location: Florida/Porlamar p/t
I find it curious that when you follow the link, the story refers to the killing of criminals, not tourist. Looks like good police work to me.

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