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Insecurity Persistent Problem for El Salvador Public Transit

EL SALVADOR / 29 SEP 2015 BY MICHAEL LOHMULLER EN

Despite security measures, thieves continue to assault users of El Salvador?s complex bus and public transportation system, demonstrating the tremendous difficulties and challenges in securing an entire public transport service.

El Salvador?s Business Association for the Transport of Bus Passengers (ATP) estimates criminals rob $10 to $11 million from bus passengers and drivers annually, according to El Diario de Hoy; transport workers say there are an average of 10 assaults per day.

Around 15 percent of passengers have sought alternative means of transport, with transportation workers complaining that Plan Bus -- a police-led security initiative -- has not guaranteed security along bus routes.

Howard Cotto, assistant director of the National Civil Police (PNC), defended police efforts, telling El Diario de Hoy, "The subject of public transport is complex. We have more than 1,000 working routes and over 10,000 registered transportation units, without counting those that work illegally."

Through September 11, 2015, police registered a total of 2,600 complaints for theft, which Cotto said was 515 less than the same period in 2014 -- an 18 percent drop. Many cases, however, go unreported by victims. (See video below)

In addition to assaults on public buses, data cited by El Diario de Hoy from Alertux -- a social media platform where citizens can report criminal activity -- demonstrates thefts are also common at stoplights, stop signs, and at bus stops. (See graph below)

15-09-28-ElSalvaor-AssaultMap

Thieves use different tactics, and, while bus assaults can occur at any time, they are more frequent from Thursday to Saturday -- especially during times of the month when people receive paychecks.

Bus routes registering the highest number of assaults in September service outlying communities, where criminals can make a quick getaway, reported El Diario de Hoy. (See graph below)

15-09-28-ESV-Puntos

InSight Crime Analysis

El Salvador has long suffered from insecurity in its public transportation system, with extortion of buses and taxis by criminal groups a major challenge. In the past, El Salvador has deployed anti-terrorism units to patrol bus routes, and has instituted a smart card system to pay bus fares so drivers carry less cash.

SEE ALSO: El Salvador News and Profiles

Yet securing all points of public transit in El Salvador vulnerable to exploitation from criminals is a herculean task. Over 70 percent of the population is estimated to travel via bus, creating a vast network of bus routes and service providers that authorities struggle to effectively patrol given a lack of resources.

This struggle is not unique to El Salvador, however. Its neighbors Guatemala and Honduras also suffer from chronic insecurity on public transit, and have struggled to successfully tackle the problem.

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