Authorities in Venezuela say the country's "Intelligent Patrolling" policing program has led to a nearly 18 percent drop in crime, but under-reporting of crime and the government's politicized use of statistics cast doubt over the claims.
The program coordinator, National Guard Coronel Nelson Morales, said crimes had fallen 17.7 percent throughout the country since Intelligent Patrolling was enacted in January this year, reported Noticia al Dia. The program had divided troubled municipalities into 1,526 quadrants to increase the speed and effectiveness of the police response. Each zone has a corresponding rapid response telephone number.
However, unofficial figures reported by El Nacional suggest in capital Caracas -- one of the world's most dangerous cities -- certain crimes appear to be on the rise despite the implementation of the program, with stolen vehicle cases increasing between January and May and the city leading the country in kidnappings in 2014. So far, 127 Caracas residents have been killed in July, and 379 were murdered in June, according to El Nacional.
According to police sources cited by El Nacional, problems in implementation include a lack of coordination in police strategy between quadrants and differences in training between the municipal police and National Guard -- both of whom have a role in the program.
Currently, there are plans to create 100 Intelligent Patrolling police posts to improve citizen access to the program in Caracas. Each will be responsible for between four and five quadrants.
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While the government of President Nicolas Maduro has upheld the Intelligent Patrolling program as an innovative and effective initiative, others have criticized it from the start as adding little more than new cell phone numbers to the traditional stationary checkpoint approach.
Another major problem with the implementation of the program -- or any Venezuelan police program that relies on citizen cooperation -- is that a lack of faith in the security forces inhibits reporting of crimes. Venezuela's police have been identified by Transparency International as among the most corrupt in Latin America, and corrupt elements are known to be involved in crimes including kidnapping. This lack of trust means crimes frequently go unreported, and so the true figures are likely substantially higher than those cited by the government.
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Additionally, a lack of transparency regarding crime statistics has long made Venezuelan government figures questionable. Last year the government even admitted to keeping unfavorable crime statistics secret.