Homicides in Medellin have dropped 16% in the first eight months of 2011 compared to the same period last year, the local government said Tuesday.
According to Government Secretary Juan Felipe Palau Angel, 1,257 people were murdered in Medellin so far this year; 248 less than in the same period in 2010.
Palau Angel told Colombia Reports that the positive results were part of an “integrated policy” involving increasing the effectiveness of the police, improving the city’s judicial system and social investment.
The government secretary said the government “respects the work of justice,” but stressed that the bottleneck in effectively fighting crime in the city remained the clogged judicial system.
The number of arrests of suspected criminals went from 10,918 in the first seven months of 2010 to 12,288 in 2011, while the number of convictions decreased from 3,032 in the first eight and a half months in 2010 to 2,711 the same period this year, said Palau Angel.
The Medellin official said he hopes to further lower its crime rate with more investments in the prosecution offices and further integrating the work of the government agencies and civilians, especially regarding the extortion practices that are rampant in the city’s poorer neighborhoods.
The government secretary announced the authorities will install video cameras on bus routes to discourage the extortion of buses and plan to implement an electronic paying system, which would make it impossible for neighborhood gangs to extort the bus drivers.
Aside from that, the Palau Angel called on civil society and the commercial sector to jointly fight the extortion practices.
“Let’s make a big pact, an alliance and not pay extortion,” said Palau Angel. Instead of giving money to the gangs, the government secretary called on bus companies whose drivers are extorted to “use this money to promote non-violence and further strengthen security.”
Medellin has been trying to curb an impressive rise in violence since 2008, when the National Government extradited the leaders of demobilized paramilitary organization AUC. Since then, infighting between former mid-level commanders of the AUC made murder rates soar. According to the government, crime has been dropping again since 2010.