Street Crime in Buenos Aires

You are welcome to share your story if you are a tourist and victim of crime in Buenos Aires. Your experiences may help others avoid a problem.

Feb 8, 2012 WARNING: If you are mugged in Buenos Aires do NOT attempt to fight off the thieves. They are usually armed, either with gun or knife. This morning a tourist taking photographs was killed when three men attempted to steal his camera and bag. When he resisted he was stabbed and died moments later. This is particularly disturbing since Plaza San Martín is generally one of the safest spots for tourists. It’s a place I would consider safe for taking photographs and not getting robbed. But just be aware that crime can happen anywhere in the city. Be careful, be safe. Enjoy the city & don’t give up your life for a camera.

NOTE: Most people finding this post & leaving comments do so by searching Google for “street crime in Buenos Aires”. The comments below are generally from people who already have been victims of street crime in Buenos Aires. Potential tourists also should be aware that thousands of people visit Buenos Aires each year without encountering any problems. But problems with crime do exist.

I feel very safe walking around Buenos Aires and even where I live in San Telmo, which some people think is not a very safe area. But, again, today I was reminded that thieves come in all types.

Walking out to get the paper this afternoon, I saw two teenage girls chasing another teenage girl and a guy through the intersection of Tacuarí and Brasil.

At first, I didn’t think anything about it. There’s a school on this block and you often see teenagers chasing each other around, just playing. All the teens looked around the same age, appeared to be working class kids from the area.

So, I thought that it was just a game though the two people being chased were taking some chances darting out into traffic. And the girl being chased was smiling, as if it was all a joke, though I did notice she had a backpack in her hands, which is what the other girls appeared to be after.

By this time, a small crowd was gathering on the corner and the girls doing the chasing started shouting, “ladrón”. At that point, everyone standing around started to realize that it wasn’t fun and games. A couple of young guys standing next to me on the corner took off across the street and chased down the girl with the bag.

They finally got the bag back but not the girl or the guy who took it and not before whatever was in the bag was stolen. A policeman eventually arrived and the girl tearfully explained what had happened as she looked through her bag.

This is the third robbery that I have witnessed in the past year. Interestingly, all the victims of those three robberies were not American or European tourists – as one might expect – but South Americans. Indeed, the girl today definitely was local. We have a porteña friend who had her digital camera stolen, snatched straight from her hands while she was taking a photograph. And in front of the Obelisc we saw a man get his wallet lifted from his front pants pocket.

In the other two incidents, the thieves looked like thieving, low-life types. But today’s culprits appeared to be ordinary people, whom you would never suspect. But I don’t want to sound alarmist. I see people wandering around snapping photos with digital cameras all the time. So, I guess it’s just a reminder to be cautious – but not paranoid – of your valuables and your surroundings.

Ceci also saw a man get his wallet stolen as he tried to board a bus in front of Estación Constitución.

A final word about safety in San Telmo: in the past few months, I have noticed that there is now a policeman stationed on just about every other street corner. Their presence is quite obvious at night when the streets are rather empty, but they’re around during the day also. The problem during the day is that the policemen are often hanging out in some kiosk or chatting to the guy selling newspapers. So, you probably have to yell loudly to get their attention. And, I maybe I’m wrong, but somehow I just don’t get the impression that policemen here are going to do a TJ Hooker and chase anyone down. (Ok, I’m showing my age in that cultural reference to American TV). But I do feel safer knowing that the police are fairly visible.

Update: As of 7/29/2014, comments on this post are disabled due to spam.

101 thoughts on “Street Crime in Buenos Aires

  1. I was on business form London, staying in Puerto Madero – very nice area – and went on an trip to Hurlingham last Saturday. I took the San Martin line from Retiro train station. On the way back I was captivated by the “Villa 31″ shanty town next to the tracks at Retiro.

    I got off the train and wondered deep into Villa 31 – not knowing it was the most dangerous area in the whole of Argentina!!

    It wasn’t long until some teenage boys started tagging behind me and asking me questions in spanish. I don’t know much spanish so decided to ignore them and look for turning to get out of the place (was approaching the fly-over part by now and didn’t want to do a full ’180′ in front of the teenagers…)

    I found a junction in the narrow streets and managed to take some turnings to get me on track for an exit. When I thought I was getting near to safety a guy on a bicycle blocked my path. When I attempted to get around him he grabbed me and about 4 people in total started grabbing my stuff (wallet, phone, headphones, back-pack). None of that stuff was on display… but being a non-local I guess I was singled out as an easy target.

    The gang were pretty rough and persisted in their struggle to obtain all the things they wanted. There were onlookers on the street and on the roofs. No-one wanted to help. In that community everyone knows each other and probably know the robbers.

    They were pretty persistent and when I eventually let go of my bag, they ran off. I feel I got off lightly (I felt relieved that they didn’t stab me, kidnap or torture me)! My wallet, phone & bag were taken. Thankfully I still had my passport and a stash of money zipped in one of my sleeves.

    I reported the crime to local police and they were supportive but told me there’s no chance of getting my stuff back, and I think they wouldn’t want to venture into the villa themselves.

    Funnily enough I don’t feel hatred towards the gang. I guess that due to the economic situation they are making their living according to their own waws. I wish that they may find a more honest way to make a living without needing to target others.

    Anyway, after sleeping on it I was eager to get out & about again the next day. It didn’t put me off exploring Buenos Aires. But I didn’t go back into the ‘Villa’ (even though that place still fascinates me).

    I think if you adhere to a few basic safety tips you’ll be fine. I count this incident down to my own stupid fault for wondering into a dangerous place without doing the necessary research first. Having said all that I’ve been to more deprived areas of India and felt much safer there than in BA.

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