I’ve worked, lived and traveled in 30 different countries, and lived in Lima for four years without incident, until Wednesday 8, July 2015. While no place is ever 100% SAFE, there are places safer than others, and in Lima it’s no exception. My intention is not to scare or deter tourism in Lima, only to give advice to tourists on venues not to go, or use extra vigilance when visiting these places.
I recently had a couple from France staying with me for a few days before they headed to Nazca and beyond as they continue their world journey. So far in nine months of travel around the world, this was their first crime incident as well. They thought Cruz del Sur was too expensive for them, and wanted to go downtown near the Centro, to the many bus stations to purchase tickets…
At approximately 13:00 hrs we were in the vicinity of 28 de Julio road in the La Victoria district, very near to the city center. They checked a couple of bus stations, but the schedules were not right for them, so we headed down Paseo de la Republica road adjacent to the National Stadium, where Peru’s Pro Soccer Team plays international matches. About two blocks down, walking down the sidewalk, I was in front on point, and the two from France walking behind me. I felt someone trying to touch or grab my wrist and I pushed it away, thinking at first it was someone wanted to sell something. Then one of the two thieves’, called “Ratero’s” in Spanish got in front of me on the sidewalk. He was saying something and Gringo. I was stopped at this point, and looked back to see the second thief holding a knife with a 3.5 to 4 inch blade pointing upward in front of the French male. I looked back at the thief next to me and checked his hands which were both clinched fists, one down and one up with his arm resting on the building wall. I looked back toward my friends and then back left to see a National Policeman moving up the sidewalk with his pistol drawn. The two thieves bolted away in different directions. The one with the knife had the French females backpack.
The French male later told me that he saw the two thieves running down the street and he leaped forward about a meter and started waving his arms and pointing at the thieves to a policeman he saw on the corner. The National Policeman, later identified as Officer Cortora, he said, was standing on the corner with his arms crossed, looking up and around and then started patting his waist all around looking for his gun like he didn’t know where it was. Everything took place in just a few seconds, I felt calm, but my mind was racing with decisions and scenarios. I think that crime should not pay, however, often times; resistance is met with further violence. Thankfully Officer Cortora was in the vicinity, or I’m sure both of their backpacks would have been stolen. As for me, I don’t carry much when I go out specifically for this reason. I sanitize my wallet leaving behind anything important. In this case, I left my wallet and cellphone at home, and only had a few Soles on me.
We checked a local business security camera; however it was pointing more to the street and didn’t capture the crime. Other cameras may have picked up the thieves as they ran. We were given the address in La Victoria for the Comisario or Police station. Once there, we were passed to three different people. Two National Policemen took the three of us back to the scene of the crime, and one of them talked with Cortora. They then drove us to the Comisario in the Centro to talk with the Tourist Police Division. They told us not to mention that we had talked to them, or the Tourist Police wouldn’t touch the case, and refer it back to La Victoria.
On the way to the Tourist Police, we were a couple cars back at a traffic light. There were several indigent possibly homeless people sitting on the center median that had window cleaning brushes to wash car windows for a little spare change. The National Policeman in the passenger seat got out and said something to them, and motioning with his hand for them to move along. As he was returning to the vehicle, a wild haired woman got up and started approaching and yelling at him. He got back into the vehicle, then someone on the left driver side said something that must have been very derogatory, because both policemen then started moving in an agitated manner like “oh no! No that’s it!” They started fumbling between the seats and pulled out their black leather batons and got out of the vehicle. People began to scatter, and the policeman on the passenger side chased a teenager down the sidewalk median swung his baton, and narrowly missed the boy as he ran into the street. He then returned down the sidewalk where the two policemen began beating two individuals with the heavy leather batons, for no apparent reason. The driver side policeman patted the back pocket of one individual who then produced a wallet and opened it, but did not remove his I.D. instead he opened the billfold, as well as the second individual. The police were standing in front of them and between the police vehicle, so I cannot say if they took cash from the two men. Only it is quite common to be pulled over in Lima, because they want some cash. Once the report was filed with the Tourist Police, the two travelers could then send the report to their travel insurance for reimbursement of the stolen items.
While many of the bus stations are located in La Victoria on and around 28 de Julio road, there are some other locations to take a bus such as Plaza Norte, or Cruz del Sur, one of the nicer buses is located at Plaza Norte and Javier Prado terminals. If you must take a bus in La Victoria I STRONGLY advise you to take a taxi to the front door of the terminal and don’t walk around outside unnecessarily.
Areas to Avoid in Lima:
La Victoria, El Agustino, Barracones in Callao, El Zapallal, and Puento Piedra.
Again, I’m thankful that Officer Cortora was able to interrupt a crime in progress, and I hope for his own safety as well as others that he spends some time practicing his wild west quick draw.