Living in Cotacachi for 4 years, I feel safe and rarely think about crime. Robberies, petty theft happens. And it seems to be on the rise as economic conditions impact Ecuador in the same way as the rest of the world. Times are getting tougher.
Most of the things we've had stolen have been from our own negligence or lack of attention to our belongings and to the custom here, which is that it seems to be okay to take things left around unattended. And also to steal if possible to get away with it.
Organized gangs are operating more in the big cities and beaches, according to reports from people living in Quito, Vilcabamba and Manta whom I've talked to.
Cotacachi is in the mountains 2 hours north of Quito, a lovely village of 8000 people at 7800 feet. Often sunny and warm, also cool, even cold when the sun disappears.
My husband and I have purchased 10 acres near an old hacienda to built a house, plant our organic garden, maybe have an alpaca and some chickens, live the green life. We want to attract 3-4 like-minded people to share this land with us.
I have a different take on protecting yourself here. I just found out from an Ecuadorian woman who's lived here all her life that you cannot hurt or kill anyone breaking into your house or you will be prosecuted. I haven't heard about meeting force with an equal force. That may be true, so thanks for bringing up this topic. It needs to be fully checked out.
I was told that if someone breaks in and robs you or threatens you, you can't harm them.
The indigenous have different laws and are allowed by the government to practice their old ways of justice. When they catch a thief, adulterer, murderer, etc., the are free to punish him or her. There usual method is to throw ice water on them, then beat them with nettles for the first offense. The next offense is treated more severely and can result in death.
Robbers in a nearby village were caught last week and punished this way and I have heard of it happening several times but never witnessed it.
In indigenous villages, if you are friendly with them and become part of the community, they have a system for ringing a bell or sounding an alarm if there is trouble at your house and they will come to help you. So get to know your neighbors.
We know a man who brought his guns from the states, but it was a hassle and required lots of paperwork. You can buy arms here but guns are much more expensive and you have to go through a very difficult process to get a gun permit.
My husband and I have a website (pro-ecuador.com) and blog Living in Ecuador Blog - that answers many questions and contains tons of free information.