Almost 1,000 police reinforcements arrived Wednesday in the central Colombian city of Medellin, which has been plagued by violence and gang warfare over recent months.
General Orlando Paez, the national police’s director of civilian security, said that more police and technological equipment will arrive in the next month.
“The time has come to move from diagnostics to results,” Paez said.
National police chief General Oscar Naranjo announced a few weeks ago that 800 extra police would be sent to reinforce Medellin’s Comuna 13, whose San Javier suburb has seen some of the worst of the recent violence.
Police reinforcements have been arriving to try to subdue waves of violence breaking out in Medellin since late 2009, but have been powerless to stop the gang warfare.
A report by intelligence agency DAS that was leaked to radio station Caracol says that 152 criminal organizations with a total of 3,000 members are active in the poor neighborhoods of Medellin.
The figures in the DAS report differ from figures provided by the city’s ombudsman, which say that Medellin has some 400 gangs, of which 200 are active, with a total of 5,000 members.
The gangs make profits from extortion, kidnapping, contract killings, and trafficking arms and drugs.
The intelligence report confirms statements by authorities that most gangs in the city belong to the drug trafficking organizations of “Sebastian” and “Valenciano,” who are gang leaders engaged in a bloody turf war for control of the city’s drug trade.
Both the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the U.S. have said they will provide assistance to Colombian authorities to address escalating urban violence. The ICRC will provide humanitarian aid to the Medellin inhabitants affected by the violence, and attempt to hold a dialogue with gang members.
The U.S. government will provide aid in the form of support for Colombia’s national police with “equipment, resources and the strengthening of security.”