A Venezuela police report asserted that 27 criminals were responsible for the majority of kidnappings in Caracas, a crime that is reaching epidemic proportions and contributing to the country's slide into chaos.
According to a report from the Miranda National Guard's Anti-extortion and Kidnapping Group (GAES) -- accessed by newspaper El Universal -- the 27 individuals make up seven different criminal gangs. The report highlights how some of the gangs continue to operate even after ringleaders and key members have been arrested.
Among the groups active in Caracas are "El Wilmer," which operates in the east of the city and whose leader was captured in 2012; "Los Kelvin," which mainly operates at night and is still active despite five of their seven members being incarcerated; and "El Jairo," which is also works in the east of the city and continues to operate despite its leader's detention in 2013. According to the report, a group known as "El Penko," which is known for hitting high-value targets, is also operating once again, despite four of its members being killed in a shootout with security forces in 2012.
Police said the gangs had varying levels of experience and expertise and participated both in traditional kidnappings and in so-called "express kidnappings" -- whereby victims are held while criminals clear out their bank accounts or rob personal property.
In 2013, El Nacional reported Caracas and the adjoining state of Miranda were the regions that most suffer from kidnappings in the country.
InSight Crime Analysis
Kidnappings and "express kidnappings" have spiraled out of control in Caracas in recent years, while Venezuela has become one of the kidnapping capitals of the world. According to sources consulted by InSight Crime during field work in 2010, up to 40 such episodes were taking place every day in the capital. Since then the security situation has continued to worsen.
Groups dedicated to the crime vary in their modus operandi, with some using contacts within banks to identify wealthy victims, while others target individuals based on their clothing or type of vehicle.
In response to the security crisis in Caracas, President Nicolas Maduro and predecessor Hugo Chavez have attempted to implement a variety of reforms, including dissolving the Caracas Metropolitan Police -- which were believed to be responsible for a large proportion of kidnappings.
Maduro recently announced the establishment of "peace zones," where citizen security would be "guaranteed," and the introduction of a new system of community policing. However, there is little sign of progress. Maduro has offered few details on how his peace zones are to remain crime free, while El Nacional has reported that when they contacted police in 30 of the new police quadrants, only seven said they had attended a crime or received reports of a crime from citizens.