Measures taken by Honduran authorities to combat crime are being credited for a declining trend in the homicide rate and a 75 percent reduction in extortion, though it remains to be seen whether gains in either area will be sustainable.
The latest statistics released by the Violence Observatory at the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH) show a six-point reduction in the homicide rate between 2012 and 2013, from 85.5 to 79 murders per 100,000, with the overall number of murders falling from 7,172 to 6,757 in that time, reported El Heraldo .
The drop is largely a result of a reduction in murders during the last four months of the year, which averaged 500 murders a month, compared to 595 over the rest of the year. The decline coincided with the deployment of the new Military Police of Public Order (PMOP).
Authorities of Honduras' National Anti-extortion Force (FNA) have also announced a 75 percent reduction in reported extortions since cell phone service in the country's 24 prisons began being blocked on February 14.
However, inmates are already attempting to smuggle satellite phones into prison to counter the measure, according to authorities.
InSight Crime Analysis
The decrease in the homicide rate in Honduras is a welcome development, but despite the apparent correlation, it is too soon to attribute this to the deployment of the military police.
President Juan Orlando Hernandez will likely claim the news as a sign of further progress under his new 'Operation Morazon' security strategy, yet doubts remain that "mano dura" ("iron fist") security policies and the militarization of police forces is an effective long-term crime reduction strategy. Such policies have been common in Central America, but have been shown in some cases to increase violence and strengthen gangs.
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The strategies employed by Honduran officials to counter prison extortion, however, may be an example of an effective policy easily replicable in other Latin American countries experiencing similar levels of extortion from prisons, such as Colombia, Guatemala, and Venezuela. However, such a policy comes with pitfalls, such as resistance from communities surrounding prisons complaining of interference with cell phone signals and, as already noted in Honduras, the use of satellite phones in prison.