Cartagena was sent 270 extra police officers on Monday to help combat a wave of violence that hit Colombia’s most important tourist hotspot in the first weeks of January.
Escalating violence between nationally operating drug gangs, which has previously caused soaring violence in Colombian cities such as Medellin and Cali, has only recently hit the coastal city. A sudden wave of assassinations, with at least one in the city’s tourist center, caused alarm bells to ring on both a local and national level.
“We’re very worried about the situation that is developing in Cartagena. It has become a high priority issue for the president, the interior and justice minister and the highest ranks. That’s why I am here today,” General Rafael Parra, sent by the national police to coordinate crime fighting in Cartagena, told the press.
The majority of the 225 policemen and 45 policewomen will be patrolling the city’s poor neighborhoods, while 70 will be working in intelligence.
“We need intelligence work more than we need force, in order to break these emerging gangs that have come from other parts of the country to end the tranquility of the people of Cartagena,” Mayor Judith Pinedo told newspaper El Universal.
“If it is necessary to restrict mobility in some parts of town we will do that. If we have to isolate neighborhoods, we will do that, but what we will not do is accept the violence that comes from drug trafficking, territorial battles, or let fights between gangs from other cities affect us,” the mayor added.
Minister of Defense Gabriel Silva announced he will come to Cartagena on Friday to attend a special security council to deal with the wave of assassinations.
According to national police figures, crime in Colombia as a country has gone down in 2009, but most cities report an alarming rise in murders as a result of power struggles between drug gangs for control of the country’s cocaine exports and local drug sales.