Venezuela‘s capital registered 3,218 homicides during the first 10 months of 2012, putting it on pace to surpass last year’s total and indicating that clashes between street gangs remain one of the primary drivers of violence in the city.
The statistics are taken from the Venezuelan national police agency the CICPC, reported El Universal.
According to the CICPC’s numbers, 70 percent of the homicides in Caracas and the surrounding metropolitan area were related to armed assaults. The definition appears to encompass armed robbery, as well as confrontations between street gangs. There are thought to be hundreds of gangs in Caracas, usually no more than seven to 10 people defending small chunks of territory.
Caracas’ municipality of Libertador — where the presidential palace and many other government buildings are based, alongside poorer neighborhoods like the 23 de Enero — remains the most violent, with 2,580 murders registered so far this year, or about 258 murders a month. In comparison, the other four municipalities in the Caracas metropolitan district registered 638 homicide victims between January and October 2012.
Last year Caracas registered 3,488 homicides in total, according to the CICPC.
In the past, the police agency’s numbers have been slightly smaller than those kept by NGO the Venezuelan Violence Observatory, which reported 19,336 homicide victims in Venezuela last year, compared to the CICPC’s count of 18,850. The NGO called 2011 Venezuela’s most violent year ever.
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The homicide tally is an indication that consolidating security in Caracas will remain a challenge for President Hugo Chavez as he begins his fourth term. The CICPC data suggests that 2012 could turn out to be even more violent than 2011, if murders continue at the same pace.
The government has taken a few steps to try and stem violence in the capital, including overhauling the city police and encouraging disarmament schemes. But a weak judiciary means few are punished for committing crimes, leaving Caracas’ street gangs essentially with free reign to deal drugs and kill one another over petty rivalries, with little intervention from the authorities.
Even with increased evidence that organized crime is deepening its hold inside the country, it appears that urban street gangs will remain the primary drivers of violence in the capital.
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