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BRIEF

Over 110 Caracas Police Officers Killed in 2015

VENEZUELA / 23 OCT 2015 BY VENEZUELA INVESTIGATIVE UNIT EN

More than 100 Venezuelan policemen have been killed in the metropolitan area of Caracas so far this year, leading to an unwillingness to deploy particularly at night, while deteriorating confidence in the criminal justice system has led to a lynching spree. 

With the killing of police detective Ramon Jose Vegas on October 20, a total of 112 officers have now been slain in Caracas during 2015, according to El Universal. Ten of the victims reportedly belonged to Venezuela's investigative police force, known by its Spanish initials as the CICPC. In five instances, the crimes were committed in order to rob the officers of their weapon, reported El Universal. 

Meanwhile, a wave of lynching has spread across Venezuela. Lynching has been almost a daily occurrence in recent weeks, reported Spanish news agency EFE. However, determining if lynching in Venezuela is on the rise is difficult because no government agency keeps track of this statistic, according to EFE. 

InSight Crime Analysis

The high number of police killed in Caracas and the recent lynching spree are symptoms of a worsening security crisis in Venezuela. Security forces are increasingly being targeted by criminal groups for their weapons, and numerous police stations have suffered grenade attacks over the past month.

As a result, police officers have reported feeling under greater threat, and doing only the minimum work required of them to fight crime while on patrol. While conducting recent field work, InSight Crime found many areas of Caracas were left deserted after nightfall, leaving civilians to fend for themselves against any potential aggressors. 

SEE ALSO: Venezuela News and Profiles

Given the critical state of Venezuela's police forces, it is unsurprising citizens have turned to vigilante-style justice. The lynchings reflect weakening confidence in Venezuela's criminal justice system to provide public security and investigate crimes. Citizens are also deeply suspicious of the security forces; in a recent survey, 67 percent of respondents said they believe police and military officials are selling weapons to organized crime groups. 

A rise in criminal activity has also fueled the country's downward security spiral. According to the NGO the Venezuela Violence Observatory (OVV), Venezuela's homicide rate climbed to 82 murders per 100,000 inhabitants last year, the highest rate since at least the late 1990s. If true this would make Venezuela one of the most dangerous nations on earth. Nonetheless, the lack of official crime data makes it difficult to determine the full extent of the security crisis. 

In addition to Venezuela's economic woes , security issues will be a major factor in December's legislative elections, in which the ruling socialist political bloc is at risk of losing a majority in the National Assembly for the first time since 2000, two years after Hugo Chavez was first elected president. 

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