I’ve written on crime in La Candelaria in 2009. It was a little bad. WAS. As in past tense, not anymore. I have to go back to all those posts and link to this one, because La Candelaria is different.
After moving out of Chapinero, I moved into Hostal Fatima in La Candelaria. I noticed I was rarely getting asked for change or offered drugs. One of the gringos I knew at another hostel confirmed the neighborhood’s changed since last year.
I ran into a hostel owner I knew (not Fatima) and mentioned the difference. He replied, “Pagamos por seguridad.” We paid for security. The local business owners pooled money and hired an additional private security force to patrol the streets at night. Private security companies are a major industry in Colombia, and you see as many rent-a-cops as regular police and military.
See Limpiezas: Social Cleansing in Colombia to learn more about how local businesses respond to neighborhood crime.
There were always a couple security guards in blue uniforms standing around Carrera 3 during the day, but they’d leave at night. Now there’s a whole crew of guys dressed in all black standing watch all night long.
My first run-in came at the end of a Friday night. I was with Rico, an American from New Orleans who’s new to Bogota. We saw a crowd outside Jamming Reggae bar. We hopped out and approached the door. The guys outside seemed sketchy and I wanted to go back to the hostel. Rico would have none of it. At that moment, one of the security guys in all black came up and asked me where my hostel was. He recommended I get going, offered to walk me there, etc.
Another night, Rico and I were walking down Calle 14 around 3 am. A half dozen gringo tourists were walking ahead of us. They were first to pass a big group of these security guards standing at the corner of Carrera 3. The guards stopped them and asked where they were going, confirming they weren’t wandering the streets but just heading back to their hostel around the corner. The interrogation lasted a minute or so. One of the guys approached us and I joked with him that I know how it is and no ladrones are prowling the streets while his team’s out. He laughed and we kept going. We walked the streets aimlessly for a while without coming across any undesirables whatsoever.
Later I saw that group split up to make rounds, each guard walking in a different direction. I imagine they’re liberal with their batons on locals who they don’t deem good for the neighborhood.
‘Life is But a Dream’ by The Harptones
Support what Expat Chronicles is all about. Leave a tip to keep the laughs coming (and the news, insight and other stuff too).