There is a noticeable presence of police out on Bogotá streets, either patrolling on foot or on motorbike. The heightened police presence began mid-July in response to a rash of murders and muggings that have shocked the capital’s nine million residents.
With 756 homicides reported during the first six months of 2021 – a 15.7% increase over the same period last year – 96% of Bogotanos feel security has deteriorated, forcing Mayor Claudia López to authorize last month a “shock mode,” and one, accompanied by an additional 1,500 members of the Metropolitan police.
The task at hand is to recover security in six localities where the majority of armed robberies and assaults are taking place, including extra patrols inside the mass transit system TransMilenio and along public bike paths. The term ‘plan de choque’ also means that more police checkpoints and identity card checks are taking place and residents can be stopped at random to provide officials with obligatory papers.
According to Bogotá police chief General Eliécer Camacho, during the first month of the plan, 1,944 individuals have been arrested, 91 stolen vehicles recovered and 16,294 weapons, including firearms, seized. In coordination with the Attorney General’s Office, 21 criminal organizations have also been dismantled. “We have had to redesign our presence in sectors that are affected by criminals, within the actions there are prevention activities, 31,000 activities involving residents so that there is co-responsibility and more than 25,000 have joined civic participation networks,” highlighted Camacho.
Mayor López has petitioned the national government of President Iván Duque to incorporate an additional 10,000 police to the existing 17,000 member force. On Monday, López met with representatives of the Commerce Federation – Fenalco – to discuss the security agenda given genuine concerns that crime rates and perception of insecurity is impacting negatively the safe economic reactivation of the city.
“Fenalco and Mayoralty agree on not militarizing the city, however, if we have the support of a thousand – or two thousand – members of the Military Police to patrol and control disarmament, we believe with that it is the only option to combat insecurity until we get the additional police promised to us by the National Government,” stated López.
The announcement comes after a weekend in which a woman was stabbed during an mugging while she walked her dog in El Castillo. El Castillo is a residential neighborhood in the locality of Chapinero. On Monday, police were conducting searches in this much-transited sector that includes the city’s Gastro Zone (Zona G). “In Colombia life is constantly being threatened with firearms, knives, and other traumatic weapons,” stated López.
López has repeatedly criticized the National Police for abuses committed against protestors during three months of anti-government protests, and in which vandals destroyed much of Bogotá’s transportation infrastructure. “Nor the Police or the anti-riot squadron ESMAD have the right to take out the eyes of our youngsters,” affirmed López on social media regarding claims by human rights organizations and pro-strike support groups that security forces used excessive force against peaceful demonstrators. Former Medellín Mayor and presidential hopeful Federico Gutiérrez believes the security issue in Bogotá has become politicized to promote the electoral agendas of extremist and populist candidates. “Security is not on the Left nor on the Right: it is a right that must be guaranteed with full determination and persecution.”