Crime in Medellín: Data Update 2023 (Mid-Year) - Medellin Advisors

Crime in Medellín: Data Update 2023 (Mid-Year)

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Security is a Constant Concern and Obsession for People in Medellín

Medellín was one of the most violent and insecure cities in the world during the 1990s, especially during the era of Pablo Escobar Gaviria. There was a clear dominance of drug cartels and irregular armed groups. As a result, the city’s name made international headlines with red alerts and shocking daily death tolls. Public safety has always been a matter of great importance in Medellín. Both residents and expatriates are interested in having up-to-date information about crime. In this article, we will examine in detail the actual crime data in Medellín for the years 2022 vs. 2021, specifically focusing on 2022 and the observed trends until mid-2023.

 

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Medellin police continue their efforts to combat crime in the city's streets.

Thus, getting acquainted with and analyzing the statistical data of the most frequently committed crimes in Medellín allows us to understand the current situation and take appropriate measures to avoid, as much as possible, becoming part of the daily figures of victims in the city, especially as a tourist or expatriate. Join us in this special edition on criminality.

At Medellin Advisors, we understand that crime and safety are topics of great interest for those considering a visit to the city. This is unlikely to change anytime soon and so we make sure to cover the matter repeatedly:

According to the prestigious non-governmental organization (NGO) Como Vamos in 2022, security is a concern for more than half of the people in Medellin. Out of the surveyed citizens (a representative sample of 1616 individuals from various sectors and socio-economic strata), 54% express fear of being victims of robberies in their neighborhoods. As a result, they expect the authorities to effectively control the crime rates in the city. Only 46% of the respondents believe that the security situation is good.

In 2022, a study conducted by the NGO "Como Vamos" revealed that the sense of insecurity among people in Medellin has increased.
In 2022, a study conducted by the NGO "Como Vamos" revealed that the sense of insecurity among people in Medellin has increased.

From the Reign of Pablo Escobar to Total Peace

Unfortunately, there are still people who talk about Medellín as if we were in the year 1991 when levels of violence and insecurity were widespread, leading the city to become the most dangerous in the world. It has been over 20 years since that darkest period of Medellín. In 1993, Pablo Escobar, a criminal leader, was executed in a bloody confrontation with the police. In the years that followed, the authorities gradually took control of extensive areas that they couldn’t reach before, which were realms of crime and anarchy.

Pablo Escobar Gaviria imposed terror and bloodshed in the city for nearly 20 years. Even today, he is remembered, and a neighborhood bears his name.
Pablo Escobar Gaviria imposed terror and bloodshed in the city for nearly 20 years. Even today, he is remembered, and a neighborhood bears his name

In 2016, the National Government signed a peace agreement with the country’s main guerrilla group, the FARC-EP. Currently, there are still some localized conflicts with dissident factions of the FARC, the ELN, and the Clan del Golfo. 

In March 2023, the government initiated a negotiation process with some of the criminal groups operating in the city, such as “La Oficina de Envigado,” as part of the Paz Total and Social Forgiveness project, led by President Gustavo Petro. Some of these groups have agreed to a ceasefire and a systematic reduction in clashes between rival gangs.

Some criminal gangs in Medellín have responded to the call from Gustavo Petro's government to achieve Total Peace in Medellín.
Some criminal gangs in Medellín have responded to the call from Gustavo Petro's government to achieve Total Peace in Medellín

Official Crime Data as of The End of 2022

As is customary, Mayor Daniel Quintero Calle provided an update on the issue of citizen security in the city in 2022. This update is the result of the intensive work led by the National Police of Colombia, in conjunction with the City’s Secretariat (Secretary) of Security and Citizen Coexistence. We will now present the details of this update.

The Police and the Mayor's Office work together to control security in Medellin
The Police and the Mayor's Office work together to control security in Medellin

Important Note: For the preparation of this report, we have consulted the crime statistics databases of the city, including those from the National Police, the Department of Security and Coexistence, as well as the non-governmental organization Como Vamos and journalistic sources. It is worth noting that the information on crimes may vary among sources due to different processes and entities involved from the moment of reporting to the clarification of the incident. Currently, the National Police and the Attorney General’s Office are working together to unify the crime figures in their respective databases, which may result in variations since 2018. Considering that there are cases that go unreported to the authorities, particularly in relation to theft-related offences, we have used the higher figures for these crimes to provide a report that is closer to reality.

Homicides Have Slightly Decreased Compared to Previous Years

Homicides are a crime of great concern for the community as a whole. According to official data for 2022, there were 392 cases of homicide in the city, which represents an average of 15 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants in Medellín. This is always a regrettable figure. However, there is a 3% reduction compared to previous years, and it is below the national average in Colombia, which was 23 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants as of the end of 2022. 

Source: Secretary of Security and Coexistence of the Medellin Mayor's Office/Colombian National Police.
Medellín has been reducing the homicide rate per capita in recent years.

For several years, Medellín has been improving its security indicator and is no longer among the top most dangerous cities in the world.

According to official figures from the Mayor's Office of Medellin, 2022 was less violent than the previous year.
Homicides decreased by 3% in 2022.

In 2022, the city of Medellín achieved several historic records in the fight against crimes affecting life, according to the annual report of the Medellín Mayor’s Office. During the period from 2020 to 2022, the city experienced its least violent period in recent history, signifying a significant decrease in violence rates.

Specifically, the 16 districts of Medellín displayed the lowest levels of violence in the past 10 years during the period from 2020 to 2022. Additionally, in the current year, 17 out of the 21 districts and townships have witnessed a reduction in homicides, which is an encouraging statistic. It should be noted that despite the overall positive results, homicides increased in 7 Comunas in 2022.

An important fact to highlight is that in 2022, there were 123 non-consecutive days without homicides recorded in the city. This reflects the efforts made by authorities and the community in preventing and combating violence, contributing to the promotion of a safer and protected environment for the residents of Medellín.

Overall Theft and Robberies Increased in 2022 - Citizens Demand Police Action

At the end of 2022, 28,142 cases of theft from persons were reported, which reveals a 20% increase over the previous year in the incidence of this crime, i.e. 4603 more than in 2021. Additionally, within the category of robberies, we also have related sub-categories such as motorcycle theft, car theft, residential theft, robbery of commercial establishments, as well as the crimes of personal injury and extortion, which are generally related to robbery with violence. Globally, in 2022 there was an increase of 5,492 more cases than in 2021, which represents a 10% increase over the previous year. 

 
Statistics of the Types of Theft in Medellín 2019-2023 (Mid-Year)
The incidence of theft and robbery have once again set off alarm bells in Medellín

The overall results are contrasting, as on one hand, homicides show a positive trend of reduction each year. On the other hand, the increasing incidence of all types of robberies represents a significant challenge for authorities and citizens who feel insecure in the city and at the mercy of criminals, despite the efforts of the police to control crime and improve daily indicators

Increase in Robberies in Medellín
The increase in robberies and assaults in 2022 is a concern for both authorities and citizens

These indicators represent a constant concern for the city and involve, on the one hand, a constant effort by the police authorities and, on the other hand, raising community awareness of the importance of prevention. 

Data for Homicides in Medellín (Mid-Year 2023)

Here is a graph depicting the incidence of homicide by Comuna, allowing us to see the trend as of mid-2023.

Homicides By Comuna- Medellín 2023 (Mid-Year)
Source: Figures provided by the "Secretaria de Seguridad y Convivencia" of the Mayor's Office of Medellín. Comparative homicides in Medellín 2019-2023 (at mid-year)

In order to truly understand the situation, it is necessary to compare the current figures with previous years. This allows us to see that, overall. The areas with the highest incidence of this crime have remained consistent over time.

Comparative Homicides By Comuna- Medellín 2019-2023 (At Mide-Year)
According to the comparative graph we can see that the city has been improving its security levels in the last few years

The figures for 2023 include the first 6 months of the year. The rest are annual records.

Below are some salient observations based on the graph:

The barrios of Robledo, Villa Hermosa, La America & San Javier all experienced a 5-year decline in homicides. Even after the lockdowns of 2020, when the streets were quiet, homicides continued to fall. This is encouraging.

La Candelaria(El Centro) is by far the most dangerous Comuna of the city with a stubborn rate of homicide over the years. In 2019 there were 87. In 2020, the lockdowns dropped to 50, only for it to spring back up to 80 in 2021., and 75 in 2022. For the first 6 months of 2023, La Candelaria has recorded 32 deaths, putting it on path for a 5-year high. Note that this is not simply due to population, as both Robledo and Belen are more populous Comunas than La Candelaria. 

During the first half of 2023, El Poblado experienced 2 homicides. While this is already on par with the 2020 record, it is significantly lower than the 9 recorded homicides in 2021 and the 6 in 2022.

The zona de Laureles-Estadio has shown an increase in violence rates in recent years. Homicides went from 17 in 2021 to 19 in 2022, representing a 12% increase compared to the previous year. As of the middle of 2023, 8 homicides have been recorded.

In the majority of the city’s sectors, homicides were lower in 2020 than in 2019,  2021 an 2022. This is due to Covid-19 lockdowns which stripped the streets of activity.

For all but 2 Comunas, 2019 was the most violent year.

Comunas With Highest Number of Homicides (Mid-Year 2023)


Medellín’s four comunas with the highest # of homicides so far in 2022 are:

  • La Candelaria – accounting for 20%.
  • Aranjuez with 10% , Manrique & Belen all accounting for 7% each.
 
Homicides By Comuna- Medellín 2016-2023 (Mid-Year) Comuna 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 (Mid-Year) Porcentaje 2023 Popular 21 11 12 12 8 5% Santa Cruz 12 13 13 14 7 4% Manrique 19 13 20 13 11 7% Aranjuez 34 28 37 32 16 10% Castilla 29 37 17 19 8 5% 12 de Octubre 23 17 18 13 6 4% Robledo 37 32 24 35 10 6% Villa Hermosa 33 26 23 18 10 6% Buenos Aires 11 14 11 18 7 4% La Candelaria 87 58 80 75 32 20% Laureles-Estadio 25 9 17 19 8 5% La América 35 10 7 5 2 1% San Javier 47 25 21 29 5 3% El Poblado 9 2 9 6 2 1% Guayabal 25 7 14 14 4 2% Belen 52 27 27 25 11 7% San Cristobal 39 16 30 26 5 3% Altavista 36 10 11 7 3 2% San Antonio 9 10 4 6 5 3% San Sebastian 3 0 1 1 2 1% Santa Elena 7 4 9 5 0 0% Acum. Homicidios 2019-2023 593 369 405 392 162 100% "Source: National Police of Colombia/Secretariat of Security and Citizen Coexistence of the Mayor's Office of Medellín "
Homicides in El Poblado & Belen are declining whilst in Laureles, they are expected to increase by year-end.

As we can see, in the first half of 2023, there have been variations in the incidence of homicides in different Comunas of Medellín. Some areas have experienced a significant decrease in the number of cases, which may indicate the success of the prevention and security strategies implemented in those areas. However, it is important to continue monitoring and strengthening preventive actions in neighborhoods with higher homicide rates.

 

Despite the challenges and setbacks imposed by crime in Medellin, the police have been achieving positive results
Despite the challenges and setbacks imposed by crime in Medellin, the police have been achieving positive results

Distribution of Homicides in Medellín (2023)

Using the same data, we have formatted a pie chart to better see the distribution of total homicides amongst the tourist friendly neighbourhoods (Jan 1 – 10 June, 2023):

Whatsapp image at pm | crime in medellín: data update 2023 (mid-year) | daily life
La Candelaria experiences the biggest share of homicides whilst El Poblado experiences just 1%.

As the pie chart shows, the three most touristic neighbourhoods of Medellín experienced only 13% of all total homicides for 2023 (mid-year).

By contrast, a high concentration of this year’s murders have occurred within the 1 comuna of El Centro (23%).

The most tourist friendly neighbourhoods in Medellín are, as expected, the least likely for murder to occur. These areas are also the highest patrolled by security & police.

The data corroborates that if you stick to the right areas and avoid risky activities, your threat of being murdered is low.

55% of All Car Thefts Occurred in just 6 of Medellín's 22 comunas (2023)

Over half of all car thefts for 2022 took place in just 6 of Medellín’s neighbourhoods. This reveals a disparity with El Poblado experiencing 3% of all the city’s car thefts.

Conversely, the other two neighbourhoods popular with tourists – Laureles & Belen – accounted for 23% of all car thefts.

Generally, foreigners are less affected by this modality of crime as the prevalence of drivers remains low.

Car Thef By Comuna- Medellín
Car thefts are on a downward trend but 2023 may mark a shift in progress.

Ranking of Homicides and Robberies Against Individuals By Comuna 2019-2023 (Mid-Year)


Beyond the annual and mid-year figures, it is important to understand the geographical concentration of crimes that cause major concern to the community, such as Homicides and Robberies against Individuals. Therefore, we have conducted the cumulative consolidation of cases by Comuna from 2019 to mid-year 2023 to gain a clearer understanding of the trend and confirm: Which areas historically have a higher risk of becoming a victim? Let’s take a look at the following table:

Source: National Police/Citizen Security Secretary of the Mayor's Office of Medellín.
There are some areas where, despite the efforts of the authorities, crime rates remain higher.

Analyzing the incidence of crimes by Comuna and comparing the data from 2023 and 2022 with previous years is relevant. By evaluating the numbers, specific patterns and trends in each Comuna of Medellín can be identified. This allows for a more precise understanding of the challenges and the implementation of appropriate strategies to address them. 

Ranking of Homicides by Comuna 2019-2023 (Mid-Year)
Ranking of Homicides by Comuna 2019-2023 (Mid-Year)

La Candelaria tops the Homicide ranking in the period 2019-2023 (Mid-year), with a total of 332 cases, representing 17% of the city’s homicides. Aranjuez follows with 147 cases, Bélen with 142, Robledo with 138, San Javier with 127, San Cristóbal with 116, Castilla and Villa Hermosa each accumulate 110 cases. Similarly, we see that Laureles-Estadio, an area with a prevalence of expatriates and tourists, ranks ninth with 78 homicides, representing 4% of the total homicides. Finally, the tenth position is occupied by the 12 de Octubre Commune with 77 reported homicide cases in that time period. El Poblado ranks 19th out of 21 Comunas, with 28 homicide cases, representing just 1% of the total cases. 

Ranking of Robberies Against Individuals by Comuna 2019-2023 (Mid-Year)
By analyzing the table of robberies against individuals by commune over nearly five years, clear trends of this crime can be observed.

Regarding the cumulative ranking of the crime of robbery against individuals, La Candelaria continues to hold the top position, as observed in previous years. However, we see a clearly different trend compared to the previously analyzed homicide crime. The second and third places are occupied by areas of higher economic strata. Laureles-Estadio secures the second position with 12,570 reported robberies in nearly five years, followed by the affluent area of El Poblado with 12,236. Bélen follows with 7,557 cases, Aranjuez with 6,476, Castilla with 5,925, Robledo with 4,882, Guayabal with 4,439, La America with 3,963, and Buenos Aires with 3,753 robberies. Together, these 10 communes account for 87% of the reported robberies against individuals in the period 2019-2023 (Mid-Year).

Ranking of Robberies Against Individuals by Comuna 2019-2023 (Mid-Year)
The neighborhoods of La Candelaria, Laureles, and El Poblado lead the ranking of cumulative robberies against individuals since 2019

While most of these figures do not come as a surprise, they help to reaffirm the current crime map of Medellin. We can see that there are areas that are still under the influence of criminal gangs, and in these areas, there is still a high level of criminal violence. It becomes a real challenge for the police, and as a result, the authorities increase the investment of economic, human, and technological resources to minimize the incidence of these crimes.

Medellin's Tourist Neighbourhoods Continue to be Hotspots of Robbery

El Poblado, Laureles, and Belén are the three most inhabited Comunas by tourists in the city. They have all the amenities of a modern, comfortable, and upscale neighborhood. Unfortunately, this makes them ideal targets for thieves and criminals.

Together, they account for 31% of all personal robberies occurring in the first half of 2023, a figure considered high. In 2022, we saw an increase of 199 robbery cases compared to 2021, representing an annual percentage increase of 10%. Although there is an improvement in this indicator so far in 2023, it is a concern for the expatriate community as robberies are the type of crime they are most likely to fall victim to. Despite the alarming numbers, the risk remains relatively low. Remember, hundreds of thousands of annual visitors come to Medellín without any issues. Additionally, there are ways to mitigate this threat. Please read below for some essential tips.

It is no coincidence that the three districts favored by the tourist and expatriate community account for 31% of all reported personal robberies in the city.
It is no coincidence that the three districts favored by the tourist and expatriate community account for 31% of all reported personal robberies in the city.

Colombia's Crime Rate Continues to Drop From the 90s

Medellin is not the only city in Colombia that is striving to improve crime rates.

The country has come a long way since the 1990s, with results that speak for themselves. Here we can see an overall positive change, despite the challenges, in the crime rate in Colombia in recent times.

Colombia continues to struggle to improve homicide indicators every year
Colombia continues to struggle to improve homicide indicators every year

Let’s be clear – Colombia still has its problems. Inbound travellers should be more vigilant here than in let’s say, Western Europe or Canada. 

Having said that, this 20-year downward trend is impressive. Compare it to countries like Venezuela, Mexico, Sweden, or even the US where crime is on the up.

Crime & homicide rates may have dropped from international records, but that doesn’t mean that they’ve been subdued entirely.

Contrarily, petty crime is an obstinate feature of life in Medellín – that can and does weigh on some people over time, especially if they’ve been victims themselves.

World Ranking of Violent Cities - Where did Medellin rank in 2022?

Below is the ranking of the world’s most dangerous cities in 2022. Unfortunately, the city of Celaya takes the unfortunate first place with a rate of 109 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, followed by Tijuana, Juárez, Ciudad Obregón, Irapuato, and Ensenada, all in Mexico. Moving on, St. Louise in the United States occupies the seventh spot with an average of 87 deaths. Next on the list is Uruapan, also in Mexico, ranking eighth with a rate of 72 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. Following closely is Feira de Santana in Brazil, holding the ninth position. Finally, Cape Town in South Africa completes the feared top ten with a rate of 64 homicides per 100,000 people. It’s worth noting that Medellín has a rate of 15 deaths as of the end of 2022, which clearly keeps it far away from the most dangerous places on the planet.

Top 10 Most Dangerous Cities in the World in 2022.
'Ranking of the most dangerous cities in the world in 2022, by murder rate per 100k inhabitants' - Medellin is nowhere to be seen (Statista)

Similarly, when reviewing the report from the renowned platform Numbeo in 2023, we can see that Medellín ranked number 145 out of 333 cities in terms of Safety Index.

Conclusions Regarding the Crime Figures in Medellín

Despite a quantitative reduction in the incidence of homicides and personal injuries for the third consecutive year (3% in 2022 vs. 2021), making it the least violent year in four decades, there has been an increase in various types of robberies targeting individuals over 14%. This poses a significant challenge for the police and the community at large.

The Comunas of La Candelaria, Aranjuez, Belén, Robledo, San Javier, San Cristóbal, Castilla, and Villa Hermosa are high-risk areas with a concentration of 64% of historical homicide cases over nearly five years (2019-2023 mid-year). Among the preferred areas for tourists and expatriates, Belén has recorded 142 deaths, followed by Laureles with 78 homicides. Despite having 28 cases, El Poblado ranks 19th out of 21 Comunas. These three Comunas with a higher expatriate presence represent only 13% of the city’s total homicide cases.

For several years now, Medellin has been a much safer city compared to some other cities in Latin America and even the United States.

The Colombian Police, along with the City Hall, work together to maintain control over crime rates. Despite these efforts, Medellin still faces the pressure to reduce crime rates, particularly in areas affected by economic downturns, as well as in areas where economic progress and tourism are concentrated. These areas tend to attract the attention of criminals because they see them as places where they can find potential victims.

If you are a tourist or expatriate, it is important to maintain a low profile to minimize the risk of becoming part of the city’s crime statistics. Here are some basic tips:

  • Avoid walking alone in neighborhoods with high crime rates. Prudence will keep you safe.
  • Take care of your belongings and avoid displaying them on the street. If you use flashy mobile phones, cameras, or accessories, you will immediately attract the attention of criminals.
  • Avoid exposing yourself to higher-risk situations, such as Tinder dates, sexual services, buying drugs, or getting involved in street fights.
Medellín Real Estate - News & Trends 2023
Medellín has managed to improve its security rates with a great deal of effort from the police and its citizens

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