Military commanders in Cali, Colombia’s third-largest city, announced Thursday they will extend a limited gun ban after preliminary reports indicate homicides dropped 34% during the trial period compared to the same period a year before.
Local authorities announced the ban in December in an attempt to curb the city’s violence during Christmas.
Cali’s Partial Gun Ban
Steep drop in homicides
In the first month of the year, 105 violent deaths were recorded, said Government Secretary Carlos Jose Holguin who is responsible for public security in the city.
According to Holguin, this figure represents a 34.2% drop in homicides compared to the same month last year, during which 160 people were killed.
The municipal statistics do not coincide with local police statistics, but the improvement is equally notable. Local police chief Colonel Hoover Penilla told the El Tiempo newspaper that the city had registered 110 murders between January 1 and 27, against 173 the year before.
Army reluctant to credit ban
While the local government, citing success, asked the National Army’s 3rd Division to renew the military decree banning guns for another six months, the local army commander only agreed to a four-month extension.
Additionally, the 3rd Division refused to expand the ban to cover the entire city, instead of the 16 of 21 districts where it is currently in place.
According to the of the 3rd Division Commander General Luis Fernando Rojas, there is not enough evidence to claim the drop in homicides is due only to the ban.
“There can be many reasons that have allowed the drop in homicides over the past months,” Rojas told local newspaper El Pais, “taking in account that there is also an accompaniment of the Military Police in operations carried out in the different districts.”
Additionally, drug trafficking organization the Urabeños and their local rival, the Rastrojos, reportedly came to an agreement to decrease violence in Colombia’s third largest city exactly a week after the imposing of the gun ban. The truce is reminiscent of a similar ceasefire reportedly put in place in Medellin, which has been credited by local security experts for the drop in the city’s, Colombia’s second largest, violent crime.
According to the police, homicides also dropped 15% in November when no gun ban was in place.
“But it is certain that there has been a considerable reduction, and it’s because of this we are evaluating how the disarmament plan continues to work,” said the army general.
Cali, unlike most Colombian cities, has been unable to lower violence over the past few years. The city of 2.3 million had a homicide rate of 86 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2012. No authority have released figures for 2013.
In a previous interview with Colombia Reports, Cali Ombudsman Andres Santamaria attributed the city’s problems with violence to greater unaddressed national trends, a lack of policy initiative and a general climate of impunity.
Cali homicide rates
MORE: Cali Crime Statistics