Some 24,000 young men and chidlren in Colombia’s three largest cities are member of criminal gangs, a study quoted by Caracol Radio revealed Friday. The researchers warn for an increasing amount of children younger than 14 who are recruited.
The study warns that these groups can longer be described as simple gangs but as organized armed bands, linked to paramilitaries or drug traffickers. The teenagers are involved in a larger number of homicides, robberies armed clashes over control of territories and drug abuse.
Bogota by far has the most young men involved in crime. In the capital alone operate some 1320 criminal gangs that have 19,000 members in total. Its members are estimated to be aged between 15 and 22 years. Most gangs are located in the poor south of the city.
Medellin, the city that has suffered the most from a soaring crime rate, counts 4000 boys and girls involved in illegal armed groups. According to the study, these groups are not just gangs, but heavily armed groups based on paramilitary structures and heavily involved in the drug trafficking business. The majority of members of these groups are younger than 18.
Colombia’s third largest city, Cali, is estimated to have approximately 2000 children and young men involved in organized crime. Some of the members of these gangs are no older than nine.
The researchers warn the gangs increasingly recruit boy and girls younger than 14 years, because they do not risk the punishment criminals older than 14 run.