Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Bogotá’s new mayor Enrique Peñalosa took an informal walk Tuesday through the capital’s busy downtown district. They talked candidly for 30 minutes about the urgent security needs of the country’s largest metropolis, accompanied by the director of the National Police, General Palomino.
Their face-to-face came after the head of state and mayor signed the Pact for Bogotá Security, aiming to boost security measures for 8 million inhabitants in a city in which 42 people are victims of cellphone theft every hour. The number of cellphones stolen in Bogota is six times higher than Cali and Medellin.
Bogotá’s murder rate stands at an alarming 17 for every 100,000. According to the Pact, the objective will be to reduce these numbers to 12.3 by 2018. The agreement also adds an additional 870 police into the already 18,000 strong force.
Part of police duties will be to shut down the points-of-sale of illegal narcotics operated by micro-trafficking cartels. There an estimated 250 places in Bogotá dedicated exclusively to the sale of drugs and 750 other “hot spots” which generate insecurity given gang-related violence, territorial disputes and extorsion.
“Crimes that are not down are theft and personal injury,” stated Santos. “It’s important that the work we begin today becomes effective in its entirety.”
President Santos also called on Congress to pass a new Police Code which strengthens security in the mass transit TransMilenio stations and incorporates strict fines for those who vandalize TM’s property.
The deficiency in the number of closed-circuit security cameras was addressed between the two leaders as the capital currently has only 230 in operation.
Peñalosa pledged that during his first 100 days, his administration would dismantle 10 dangerous organizations engaged in illegal drugs trafficking. He also vowed to begin recuperating parks and public spaces from delinquents.
The wheels for the Pact of Bogotá have been set in motion, and this means we’ll all be that much safer sitting at a traffic light or riding in the emblematic red articulated buses.