Reports by two different NGOs indicate that criminal groups are the key factor in Venezuela's ever worsening public security situation and one of the highest homicide counts in the world.
Some 337 police, military and private security personnel were killed in 2015, only one less than the year before, Venezuelan NGO Fundepro revealed in its latest report.
Security personnel killings saw a sharp rise in 2014 and appear to have remained unchanged, with an average of six murders per week in 2015. Security personnel murdered on the job were often ambushed by criminals seeking to steal their weapons, Fundepro spokesperson Donnagee Sandoval said.
Meanwhile Venezuela's total 2015 homicide rate reached a historic 90 per 100,000 inhabitants, local NGO the Venezuelan Violence Observatory (OVV by its Spanish initials) said it its latest report.
Organized crime has played a key role as groups compete for territory and control over activities like drug trafficking, kidnapping and extortion, the OVV said.
For example in Venezuela's western Lara state authorities have seen a nearly 20 percent rise in multiple homicides, many of which were linked to criminal disputes, El Impulso reported citing Venezuela's investigative police, the CICPC.
"Large organized crime groups are the key to understanding this change in multiple homicides," OVV Director Roberto Briceño León, stated.
InSight Crime Analysis
Venezuela's nationwide increase in violence has occurred amid a general decline in living standards, food scarcities and economic upheaval. This trend has been exacerbated by a political war going on between the government and the opposition, which has pushed security policy far down the list of priorities and fed the growth informal and illegal economies, in which organized crime has flourished.
Unfortunately the Venezuelan government is only making the situation worse with its policy of not releasing key crime statistics such as the national murder rate.
The resulting scenario is a perfect breeding ground for organized crime, encouraged by a plethora of opportunities, a general absence of government action and shielded by a lack of accurate information on how and where crime is developing.
Venezuela's government -- particularly its newly-elected congress -- should resume the state's obligation of collecting and reporting crime statistics. Better data will allow policy makers to understand the true scale of the problem and point them towards solutions. Without this, Venezuela's dire security situation is likely to remain the same or even worsen, pushing it past El Salvador as the Western Hemisphere's most violent nation.