Galán’s security gambit: Mega police raids take to Bogotá streets

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Some 400 members if the police and army participated in Kennedy raids. Photo: Alcaldía

During the first five months of Carlos Fernando Galán’s term, the Bogotá Mayor oversaw one of the driest seasons for the Colombian capital, resulting in widespread forest fires raging for almost two weeks in the city’s eastern Cerros Orientales.

After the devastating fires during the last two weeks of January, and the ongoing effects of the El Niño weather pattern with water levels in the Chingaza reservoir system dropping to their lowest levels in four decades, the Mayor has also had to confront the scourge of organized crime in the capital: rising cases of extortion to small businesses, armed robberies on the streets and in restaurants, gang violence in vulnerable neighborhoods, and criminal acts by vandals against transportation infrastructure.

Having successfully worked with the first responders and citizens to extinguish the fires, and with water rationing measures implemented across the capital for at least one year, Galán still faces the daunting task of dismantling dangerous micro-trafficking cartels operating in the capital’s eleven localities, which are also engaged in other illicit activities, such as human trafficking.

But the offensive is on, and with large-scale operations conducted by the Metropolitan Police, the aim of these raids is to regain control of neighborhoods that are rife with rampant crime. One of the largest operations targeted the working-class locality of Kennedy last week, with over 400 members of the security forces descending upon this vulnerable area.

Marking one of the largest mobilizations in the city’s history, the concerted effort, known as a “megaoperativo,” aimed to regain control of a large swathe of the capital overrun by organized crime and violence. The raids, conducted jointly by the Metropolitan Police and the Army, represent a significant escalation in the city’s fight against criminal elements.

With a formidable show of force, security forces sought to dismantle dangerous gangs and apprehend notorious gang leaders operating in the area. During the Kennedy operation, two such leaders, known by their aliases “Ismael” and “Maracucho,” were successfully captured, signaling another important victory in the battle against micro-trafficking cartels.

Mayor Galán emphasized the importance of these raids in restoring law and order to Bogotá’s working-class neighborhoods. “These operations are crucial in our efforts to combat crime and ensure the safety of our citizens,” he stated. “By targeting the root causes of criminality and apprehending those responsible, we are sending a clear message that Bogotá will not tolerate lawlessness.”

The raids come amidst rising concerns over security in Bogotá, exacerbated by a recent spate of criminal acts targeting public transportation infrastructure. In one brazen incident, machete-wielding vandals set fire to a blue SITP bus in Ciudad Bolívar, showing yet again the need for decisive action to address urban violence. Mayor Galán condemned the act as “an egregious display of criminality” and pledged to hold those responsible accountable.

In addition to the raids, Mayor Galán has proposed strategic initiatives aimed at addressing the underlying causes of crime and social inequality in Bogotá’s working-class districts. These initiatives include increased investment in community policing, youth outreach programs, and economic development initiatives designed to provide alternatives to a life of crime.

Mayor Galán has also prioritized transparency and accountability within law enforcement agencies. By fostering greater collaboration between the police, local government, and community organizations, Mayor Galán seeks to strengthen public trust in law enforcement and promote a culture of accountability.

To address security concerns in the Eastern Hills, Galán has put forward a proposal to establish a specialized military unit tasked with patrolling the area. The Eastern Hills, known as the Cerros Orientales, have been particularly susceptible to criminal activity, including thefts, homicides, and assaults on tourists and visitors. By deploying a dedicated military unit, the proposed legislation aims to boost security in a much-visited area of the capital for hikers, and ensure the safety of residents and visitors alike.

As Bogotá continues to grapple with the complex challenges of organized crime, Mayor Galán’s proactive approach highlights a commitment to ensuring the safety and security of all residents, despite a myriad of other challenges facing residents, beginning with depleting water supplies.