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Official crime data suggests that there has been a marked rise in the incidence of robberies citywide across Colombia since 2020.

This assessment was issued to clients of Dragonfly’s Security Intelligence & Analysis Service (SIAS) on 10 April 2024.

  • Our general crime risk level for Bogota will almost certainly stay severe this year
  • Despite several recent high-profile robberies at upmarket eateries, most crimes in areas frequented by travellers are bag and phone snatching, as well as pickpocketing

Bogota will probably remain dangerous for travellers and business personnel into 2025. Official crime data shows that the already high frequency of robberies has risen significantly since 2020. Criminals also seem to be increasingly brazen: there have been several high-profile armed robberies at upmarket cafes and restaurants. Despite these unusual cases, we assess that travellers and residents are still most likely to be affected by bag and phone snatching in public places. We do not anticipate lowering our general crime risk rating for the city from severe this year.

Increase in street crime in Bogota

Robberies in Bogota have become considerably more common since Covid-19-related restrictions were lifted in 2020. National police data shows the number of reported cases went up citywide by 78% (to 148,578) between that year and 2023. There have been steep rises in crime in other cities in the region where there were lockdowns during the pandemic as daily activity resumed. But the rate of robberies in Bogota now appears to be even higher than it was before Covid-19 emerged. See the graph below for the trend over the past five years.

The rising trend appears to be citywide. Crime data from the Bogota city government suggests that there has been an increase in the number of robberies in 16 of the city’s 19 municipalities from 2019 to 2023. The authorities do not provide specific figures for street crime and muggings. But robberies in public places account for a larger proportion of cases than previously: while the number of business and residential break-ins fell by 36% (to 18,253 cases) during the period, reports of car and motorcycle theft increased by 22% (to 9,521).

As has long been the case, low-income neighbourhoods appear to be the most dangerous areas of the city. City government data shows that the municipalities with the most robberies in 2023 were Engativa, Kennedy and Suba. It also shows significant increases in the number of robberies in Ciudad Bolivar, Los Martires and Suba from 2019 to 2023. Local press reports have consistently identified these areas as the highest-risk in the city over the past few years, suggesting that armed robberies are common in low-income neighbourhoods in these municipalities.

In upmarket, business districts of Bogota, the picture appears to be mixed. Official data points to a fall in the incidence of robberies in La Candelaria (32%), Usaquen (22%) and Chapinero (10%) between 2019 and 2023.  But a major annual survey by the city government, a national newspaper and a major local university in July noted that 52% of residents feel insecure, including in wealthy areas; 15% more than in 2022.

Recent high-profile gunpoint robberies

Public fears about crime seem to be in part due to several high-profile incidents of violence this year. These incidents reportedly involved several gunmen storming restaurants and cafes in areas such as Chapinero and Usaquen, forcing patrons to hand over phones, watches and jewellery before fleeing on motorcycles. In another high-profile case, criminals killed a local businessman and shot a security personnel in Parque de la 93, an upmarket shopping and restaurant location. Such brazen incidents of violence have been rare in the area over recent years.

Even so, we doubt that such brazen robberies in upmarket areas will become common this year. This is partly because the government has bolstered the police presence in such areas. Instead, most incidents of crime affecting travellers and residents will almost certainly remain opportunistic street robberies, particularly after dark.

Residents have told us that bag-snatching is a particularly common tactic, including in Chapinero and Usaquen. It is almost certainly for this reason that most Western governments advise citizens not to display signs of wealth. Many of these advisories continue to warn of the risk to taxi passengers in the city as well, as has been the case for several years.

Other risks for travellers will probably be drugging, pickpocketing and mistakenly walking into slums and being robbed. Many slums are in central areas, and online travel forums suggest travellers often unintentionally walk into them. For example, the San Bernardo slum is located near the presidential palace. And criminals seem to typically target foreigners perceived to be wealthy at bars and restaurants in upmarket areas with scopolamine.

Image: Colombian policemen patrol near the site where a car bomb went off in Miranda, Cauca department, Colombia, on 12 April 2024; Photo by Joaquin Sarmiento/AFP via Getty Images.