New homicide statistics from Peru reveal a nationwide rise in murders over the past five years, and an even steeper surge in the disputed criminal territory of Callao port.
El Comercio has published homicide data elaborated by the newly inaugurated National Criminal Policy Observatory (Observatorio Nacional de Política Criminal) -- a joint project by Peru's Justice Ministry and the National Statistics and Information Institute (INEI).
The 2011 - 2015 homicide statistics -- described by the news website as the first ever official figures on violent deaths in the country -- show that the national murder rate has risen year upon year, and is up from 5.4 per 100,000 in 2011 to 7.2 in 2015.
The murder rate in Callao -- although it was unclear whether this referred to the province or the port city of the same name -- was consistently around double the national average, and increased from 10.2 per 100,000 in 2011 to 15.2 in 2015. On the other hand, the capital city of Lima's murder rate has been fairly stable, while remaining significantly lower than the national average at 5.0 in 2015. No other figures were released.
For decades, the police have been collecting data in a largely unreliable and unofficial fashion, criminology investigator with Peru's Catholic University (Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú - PUCP) Nicolás Zevallos told El Comercio. Zevallos noted that such disorganized data collection has hindered implementation of effective security policies.
According to separate statistics by the INEI reported in February 2016 by La República, Tumbes is the most murderous city in the country with a rate of 37.1 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.
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Tumbes' regional police chief General William Montenegro attributed the majority of killings to conflict between gangs involved in petrol contraband, criminal groups charging extortion on construction sites and assault. There are at least five groups extorting money from Tumbes' construction industry due to the large amount of investment in the area, according to the national police.
InSight Crime Analysis
The worrying homicide statistics seen in Callao are closely linked to organized criminal dynamics in the region. Callao is Peru's most important port, and it has also become a transnational drug trafficking and contraband hub. Its spiking murder rate is largely attributed to clashes between local criminal groups for control of the drug trade and extortion, and criminal violence has reached such levels that Peruvian President Ollanta Humala declared a state of emergency in the region in December 2015.
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Despite the April 2016 arrest of one of Callao's main criminal bosses, Gerson Aldair Gálvez Calle, alias "Caracol," drug trafficking in the port city looks set to continue unabated. Caracol's heirs appear to have taken control of criminal activities, which are facilitated by deep corruption among port officials.
The curse of port cities situated along drug trafficking routes has been strongly felt across the region. In Buenaventura, Colombia's main cocaine export port, intense fighting between criminal organizations in recent years had local residents living under a state of siege.
Competition between local gangs has set off a huge crime wave in Mexico's touristic port city of Acapulco, which is now the most murderous city in the country and one of the most violent in the world.