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US Embassy's Efforts to Ensure Safety for Americans in Medellin

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US Embassy's Efforts to Ensure Safety for Americans in Medellin

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March 10, 2024

For those of us who live here in Medellin full-time, the recent spike in violent crimes against foreign tourists in the city of eternal spring is concerning at the least, and anxiety inducing at the extreme. 

On February 29th, 2024 delegates from the US Embassy in Bogota came to visit Medellin for a town hall meeting at the Centro Cultural Colombo Americano de Medellin in an attempt to inform citizens of the United States of what is being done to ensure their safety while in Colombia. They asked that everything is off the record, and we will respect that, but we want to discuss a few key elements to the meeting.

Safety is at the core of their concerns

Though there were several questions regarding a wide range of topics including; Taxes, Passports, Voting and a clarification of the visas that Colombians are given to enter the United States, the main topic at the core of the discussion is the uptick in violence. There were members of the security team for the Embassy as well as the FBI were also in attendance. These teams spent all day prior to the town hall event discussing how the tourists and foreign residents can stay safe. 

It’s estimated that 1.5 million visitors came into Medellin from the United States in 2023, and that number is set to climb in 2024. With the advent of the Digital Nomad visa, and lower flight costs to travel from the ports of Houston, Dallas, Los Angeles and Miami to Medellin all but ensures this number to grow in 2024. In the first 2 months of 2024, there have been 8 unnatural deaths due to violence, which represents a steep growth over the 3 from the same time last year. This is not to mention the violent robberies, druggings and theft perpetrated against tourists this year. 

There are several frustrations that the Embassy has regarding this. The primary is that crimes are not reported to them, and to Colombian authorities. The second is the amount of red tape there is to report a crime within the National Police of Colombia. 

911 is here

One of the main concerns of tourists not reporting crimes is that the language barrier is too steep and they don’t want to deal with dialing 1-2-3 and finding someone to translate for them. There is a stigma to being a victim of crime here, the culture is very focused on blaming the victim instead of addressing the larger issue. If you go out there is the famous paisa phrase “No dar papaya” which means essentially don’t give them a reason. While this is generally good advice in a place like Medellin, it’s not a reason to shame victims, which many use, including police. 

With the visit from the Embassy to the security minister of Medellin and Mayor Federico Gutierrez, there is a new service which is aimed at removing a huge hurdle for many tourists who have been the victim of a crime here. Starting on March 3rd, 2024 if you dial 9-1-1 from any phone, you will be connected to emergency services, just as you are in the United States. In addition to this, the operators are all bilingual. This will be a good way for you to get the services of the National Police of Colombia to be dispatched to you. This is a direct result of open communication between the Embassy and the Medellin local government.

Medellin.co is here to help

Coming soon, Medellin.co will be launching a form easily accessible on our homepage which will make the reporting process easier. Our form is going to capture basic information for you and pass it along to the US Embassy Security division, the National Police of Colombia assigned to Medellin and the Fiscalia. We will make an announcement of when this form will be live.

In the meantime, if you are the victim of a crime, here is a brief checklist of how to report the crime:

  • Take a photo of your passport, and never take your passport in the street with you – Place it somewhere safe, and if you are asked to show your passport, show the photo and your entry stamp into the country. It’s a colossally bad idea to take your passport out with you.
  • Only carry enough cash with you for what you plan to do and one or 2 credit cards with low limits. Avoid carrying your debit card if you can. Most larger stores accept Apple Pay or Google Pay.
  • If you are the victim of a theft, we can not emphasize this enough, do not fight over your possessions. No possession is worth your life. There are examples of trained fighters getting hurt for having a false sense of hubris while here.
  • If you are robbed, go back to your Hotel or AirBnB and speak with the security on duty. Use their landline and call 911 immediately. Keep note of where the crime happened, it will help if there are cameras in the location you were victimized at. 
  • After you have contacted the police via 911, contact the US Embassy – Dialing instructions: U.S. Citizens calling from a Colombian mobile, please dial (601) 275-2000 and U.S. Citizens calling from a U.S. phone number please dial 011-57-601-275-2000. 
  • If you have access to your email, send an email with all information to the following email address – [email protected]. If you are given a case number with the National Police of Colombia or Fiscalia General, please add this information to your email.
  • Cancel your cards, phone and any other accounts affected immediately. This will act as a level of protection for you. 
  • Contact your family back home and let them know what happened. It is recommended that you establish a code word with them to make sure that they are talking to you and not someone else posing as you to extort them.
  • This is something that is important to do, if you have been robbed, limit your exposure to being out on the street. This is just a precaution, but if something happens on the street, it’s not a great idea to go back to the scene of the crime, and whatever you do – DO NOT ENACT VIGILANTE JUSTICE! Remember that you are a visitor here, and you are likely dealing with elements of organized crime here. None of which is worth further violence against you. 

Again, this will all be solved once the Medellin.co form is available on the website, but until then this is the recommended procedure to report a crime.

If you are coming here for the first time, please take a moment to read our article No Dar Papayaas it will give you some tips on how not to stand out here and stay safe. 

In the meantime, enjoy this beautiful city safely, and most importantly, do so with respect. Use your street smarts and be aware of your surroundings, and you should be safe. 

Steve Hamilton

Steve Hamilton has spent the last 7 years as a full time resident of Medellin. Upon arrival, dispite not speaking Spanish, and never living outside the United States, he adapted quickly to living in Colombia and embraced the culture.

He spent 15 years working in the adult webcam space, and is now a consultant for streamers of all types including YouTubers and Twitch Streamers. In addition to this, he has given back to the community by teaching at youth baseball clinics in Medellin, Barranquilla, Bucaramanga and Santa Marta, using his passion for baseball and his background in video to teach baseball players to use technology to sharpen their skills.

He’s originally from San Francisco, California and is an avid fan of the San Francisco Giants, San Francisco 49ers, Golden State Warriors and Washington Capitals. Video games, technology, reading, writing, cooking, painting and his elderly dog are his passions. If you have any questions you can reach out to him at through email.

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