Security forces in Uruguay have seized nearly 400 motorcycles in an operation meant to combat contract killings and robberies, one sign of the concern over rising violence in one of Latin America's safest countries.
Three days into an operation that began on March 13, police in Uruguay had seized 279 motorcycles in capital city Montevideo and the provinces of Canelones and Maldonado for violating traffic laws or lacking proper documentation, reported El Observador. Roughly one hundred more were seized in other provinces in the country's interior, while eight people were detained.
Motorcycles are frequently used to carry out contract killings, robberies, and to transport drugs, leading Uruguay's Ministry of the Interior to strengthen controls over motorcycle use, reported El Pais. According to the newspaper, a stolen motorcycle can be purchased for around $400 on Uruguay's black market.
InSight Crime Analysis
Uruguay's crackdown on motorcyle use as a means to reduce murders and robberies highlights growing concern over crime in the country, traditionally one of the safest in Latin America. Between March 2010 and November 2014, during the term of former President Jose Mujica, Uruguay registered 1,263 murders, compared to 1,034 during the previous presidential term. This relatively small uptick in homicides was primarily due to rising violence in Montevideo province, home to the country's capital, according to a study conducted by the security think tank Observatorio Fundapro.
Although security issues in Uruguay pale in comparison to many other Latin American countries, perceptions of insecurity are relatively high. In a 2012 survey conducted by Corporacion Latinobarometro (pdf, around 40 percent of respondents identified citizen security as the biggest issue facing the country. Robberies in particular have a significant impact on security perceptions. In January, Ricardo Fraiman, the coordinator for the Citizen Security Program at Uruguay's Interior Ministry, told InSight Crime that perceptions of insecurity in Montevideo are fueled largely by armed robberies, although this is not necessarily the most common type of crime in the country's capital.
SEE ALSO: Uruguay News and Profile
Uruguay is not the first country to target motorcycles in an attempt to fight crime. In November 2012, the Colombian city of Medellin banned male motorcycle passengers in an effort to cut down on contract killings. Similarly, Honduras implemented a temporary ban on motorcycle passengers in 2011 following several killings committed by gunmen on motorcycles. Given their agility in areas with heavy traffic, motorcycles are often favored escape vehicles for criminals in urban areas.