Mérida, June 6th 2011 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Due to the work of the National Bolivarian Police (PNB), crime is down by 53% in Caracas, according to the Chief of Police. However, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez criticised the killing of three prisoners in a cell of the CICPC, Venezuelan’s crime investigation body. He also assigned more money to the government’s prison transformation plan.
On Saturday the head of the PNB, Luis Fernandez, said that thanks to operations of the force, which was formed last year, the violent crime rate had decreased by 52.78%. So far, the PNB is only active in Caracas. In March this year, the infamously corrupt Metropolitan Police of Caracas was formally disbanded.
Fernandez said homicides in Caracas were down by 48.61% so far this year, and police have arrested 2,569 people, and dismantled 249 gangs, 221 of which were drug gangs, 20 were robbery based ones, and 8 focused on kidnapping.
In the Caracas metro, known for small-scale robberies, Fernandez said the crime rate was down 71.7% compared to last year, with 344 people detained.
So far this year the PNB have confiscated 177 guns, compared to 159 in 2010, Fernandez said.
The PNB was formally created in 2009, and became active in the streets in early 2010. Its police are trained in the new National Experimental Police University, and the force is one of the government’s main policy initiatives aimed at combating the high crime rate and police corruption.
Mistreatment of prisoners
Yesterday Chavez criticised the death of three prisoners at the hands of CICPC police. The detained youths were beaten to death in detention on 26 May.
However the minister for justice and interior affairs, Tareck El Aissami, said the prisoners’ death was an “isolated incident”, and “our commitment is with good police practices”. El Aissami condemned the killing and said he has requested an investigation. The public prosecutor’s office also said it had detained eight members of the CICPC for questioning, and put out four arrest warrants.
“This thing of beating or torturing prisoners has got to end, once and for all,” Chavez said on his nationally broadcast, weekly television show, Alo Presidente. He recognised the need to continue “cleansing” the police.
“I call on the senior police, I congratulate the majority who are doing their job well, but … a rotten apple contaminates the rest,” he said. “The human rights of the prisoners need to be respected.”
Furthermore, last week Chavez approved 413 million bolivars (US$ 96 million) towards the government’s prison system transformation plan, which aims to “guarantee respect and support” to the prisoners.
One of the key prongs of the plan is helping the prisoners reinsert themselves in society, and includes a prison symphonic orchestra. 1,500 prisoners in six different prisons are studying music, according to the newspaper Correo del Orinoco.
Homicides in Venezuela rose from 5,974 in 1999, to over 12,000 in 2009, according to government and private media sources.
In 2009, during a speech to aspirants to the PNB, Chavez said that crime in Venezuela had become a “fifth counter revolutionary column” that was ruining the plans of the Bolivarian revolution. He stated the need for a police force that was respected, run by the people, and preventative rather than repressive.
Some of the main causes of high crime rates in Venezuela, all of which go back decades, include high police corruption, little human rights training of police, high number of guns in circulation, the drug trade, inequality and consumerism, and a “crime culture” facilitated by centuries of invasion, military governments, coups, and state terrorism and repression.