Colombia’s Minister for Interior and Justice Fabio Valencia Cossio Friday announced the launch a commission which specializes in the prosecution of the members of gangs and criminal network.
Valencia Cossio’s announcement follows the identification of 308 criminal groups operating in Medellin and authorities hope that the commission will result in greater judicial efficiency in the prosecution of criminals. The decision aims to address continued criticism from the Colombian public up to the presidency itself that criminals are being set free due to flawed judicial procedures.
Valencia Cossio said that 21 of the identified groups are classified as integrated drug-trafficking organizations, whilst the remaining 287, known as “combos,” engage in a range of criminal activities. Members currently number some 4190, according to estimates by the city’s security agencies.
One of the first tasks of the commission will be the creation of a legal subunit with five specialist prosecutors to oversee the departments of Choco and Antioquia. National Director of Public Prosecutions, Germain Enciso, reported that training for the attorneys had already begun.
A commitee of this type is exists in the Bajo de Cauca region of Antioquia and has shown considerable success, according to Caracol Radio. Following its launch on July 8, authorities have already reported the arrest of four people suspected of gang affiliation, whilst a further two have been discharged.
Speaking about his plans for the new commission, the minister said “We will mount a joint strategy, like the one currently operating in Bajo de Cauca, to engineer the capture of members of these organisations, we are refining legal terms in order to launch operations leading to the capture of more than 2,000 people who have already been identified.”
One of the favored strategies of gang members is to continually switch lawyers, in order to delay the proceedings. Medellin authorities have therefore allocated almost $1.5 million to securing the services of 55 public defenders in the city.
The proliferation of gang activity has been blamed for the city’s soaring homicide rates. Last month, Medellin’s forensic units reported that the number of unidentified corpses were seriously threatening the operational capacity of the city’s morgues, despite the construction of a new facility in February.
Official figures in the first three months of 2010 showed a 54.8% increase in the number of homicides with eleven of the city’s seventeen district showing a significant increase in murder rates. Of the 884 homicides reported in the first five months of the year, 88% were due to firearms.