A massive security operation in Bogotá's nefarious Bronx neighborhood reveals how powerful microtrafficking gangs in the city have become -- and the Colombian government's lack of a long-term plan for restoring order to urban enclaves dominated by criminal groups.
Over 2,000 members of the Colombian police, army, and Attorney General's investigative unit (Cuerpo Técnico de Investigación – CTI) participated in an operation in a central section of Bogotá known as the Bronx between May 28 and 29, reported El Espectador.
The operation -- the result of months of planning -- was intended to disrupt criminal networks in the neighborhood, a massive point of microtrafficking in the city that sees an estimated $1.5 million in monthly drug sales.
— BG. Hoover Penilla R (@PoliciaBogota) May 30, 2016
Subsecretary of Security Daniel Mejía claimed operations dismantled the Bronx's three main drug groups, known as "ganchos" -- Gancho Mosco, Gancho Manguera, and Gancho Payaso.
Officials detained three individuals, including Teodilio Arango, alias "Teo," an alleged head of finances in the Bronx.
During the raids, officials also rescued 136 minors -- many of whom had been drugged and sexually exploited -- and discovered a tunnel connecting several blocks used to transport drugs, weapons, and people undetected. Authorities also encountered one man who had been kidnapped and chained up, as well as a laboratory for processing drugs, reported Caracol.
The operation was met with resistance, with locals throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at security agents and destroying several businesses.
— BG. Hoover Penilla R (@PoliciaBogota) May 29, 2016
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Bogotá Mayor Enrique Peñalosa said security forces would remain in the area to restore security, reported El Colombiano. Santos added there would be an "urban renovation" of the Bronx, which is located a matter of blocks from the presidential office, the Casa de Nariño.
InSight Crime Analysis
Colombian authorities now confront a number of challenges in restoring state presence in the Bronx.
For one, that such a large security operation was needed to uproot the sector's microtrafficking gangs speaks to the level of control they were able to attain in this central area of Bogotá. Preventing such groups from reestablishing themselves will require vigilant and sustained effort on the part of police, but also investment in social renewal projects and support services for drug addicts.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Microtrafficking
Another pressing issue, however, is that of displacement. By raiding the Bronx, security officials have now displaced hundreds of its residents, many of them hardcore drug users. Some have already attempted to return and if they are repeatedly denied entry they will likely relocate or live on the streets throughout Bogotá, potentially leading to the same problems in new places.
Unfortunately, previous security operations against microtrafficking in Colombia -- including raids targeting the Bronx -- have demonstrated a lack of success in confronting such challenges, suggesting the latest Bronx raid is likely once again to produce only superficial and temporary results.