Speaking in one of Medellin‘s most troubled barrios, Colombia’s president on Tuesday commends the reduction of violent crime as a result of the police intervention in the city.
“It was a success… [with] concrete results. We saw the number of murders diminish, including five days during the Holy Week without a single murder in Medellin,” Santos said, addressing the residents of Comuna 13, one of the city’s most dangerous districts.
Flanked by Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon, Medellin Mayor Anibal Gaviria, and Prosecutor General Luis Eduardo Montealegre, President Juan Manuel Santos discussed the security intervention which began March 18 under the direction of police director Jose Roberto Leon Riaño. The intervention focused on homicide, theft, extortion and drug trafficking.
The homicide rate in Medellin increased by 21.2% over the first two months of 2013, in comparison to the same period last year, according to the National Coroner’s Office. The most recent report shows that 189 murders were recorded from January 1 to February 28, 2013, compared with 156 for the same period last year.
“The results were very positive in all the other crimes,” Santos said. Extortion was reduced by 93%, personal theft by 57%, and grand theft auto by 72%, claimed the president, citing a police report. The police arrested 1,292 suspects, and confiscated more than a ton of marijuana, more than 1.2 million doses of bazuco and cocaine, and 12,000 pills of synthetic drugs.
“What we have ahead of us is to maintain this trend, to maintain this dynamic, to perservere against the criminals…we cannot let down our guard even a milimeter,” Santos said.
Among Comuna 13 residents that spoke with Colombia Reports the consensus was that the community had been made safer as a result of the intervention. However, residents also pointed out that one of the roots of the problem, the lack of jobs for young men, still remains.
Some Medellin residents view the police director’s assignment in the city as cosmetic, and doubt the lasting effects the operation will bring to the city’s overall security situation.
One local posted on television station Caracol’s website that, “now they will take their job seriously, having the generals here, but when they are not here they relax and they are not giving attention to the city.”
“This is why the director [Jose Roberto Leon] came…they better give a good impression that yes they are working,” said a second Medellin resident.
Medellin’s Police Chief Jose Angel Mendoza insists that the police have always been working to improve the security situation; with the arrival of his superior however, he said that the process has accelerated.
“We all must do whatever possible so that the days without homicides multiply; with the help of the police of course, with the help of all the inhabitants of Medellin in all the communities, we can succeed,” said the president, after riding the outdoor escalators, one of Medellin’s urban renewal projects, to deliver his speech from a perch high above the city.
- Presidential press conference, Comuna 13, Medellin
- Palabras del Presidente (Presidencia.gov.co)