This past Wednesday, the Venezuelan government gave equipment to the National Bolivarian Police (PNB) in the barrio of Antímano, and announced the creation of a national Criminal Investigation Service. Formed in 2009, the PNB represents a new kind of policing in Venezuela and throughout the world, aimed at dealing with the problem of crime through prevention and community engagement.
PNB officers are currently trained at UNES – the National Experimental University of Security - where they receive humanitarian and social training. The officers’ preparation at the university also stresses the importance of operating through a “direct link” with communities and businesses in the area, as well as teaching officers to analyse their policing practices in relation to their “ethical, political, social, economic and cultural implications”.
Since its deployment in 2010, the police body has been working with communities and communal councils in the shantytowns of Caracas and Miranda in an attempt to address the high rate of crime in some of Venezuela’s poorest and most violent areas. As well as crime prevention and law enforcement, the PNB officers are also engaged in carrying out youth work in these communities, including sports and cultural activities which keep impoverished children off the streets and stress an alternative to criminal activity. There are currently 21,000 children benefiting from these programmes.
The new police force is also regulated by 25 “Citizen Police Control Committees”, which ensure that officers are fulfilling their obligations and protecting the nation’s communities. In Venezuela, where the police force has historically been used against the population (for instance, in the 1989 Caracazo), community input and regulation is perceived as paramount to the success of the new police force.
According to Luis Fernandez, head of the PNB, the new police body has managed to reduce crime by 52% in the areas where it operates; yet the majority of public opinion polls continue to cite crime and security issues as the biggest problems facing the population. In an attempt to further address the issue of crime, and particularly that of homicide, the government also announced on Wednesday the creation of a Criminal Investigation Service. This service will be made up of 26 district attorneys, 330 detectives, 250 CICPC criminologists, 110 criminal investigation agents, 30 expert criminologists and 30 PNB transcribers. Minister of Justice and Internal Affairs, Tareck El Aissami, also communicated that 756 CICPC agents (Venezuela’s criminal investigation body) will also deployed across Caracas and Miranda as part of the measure.