CARACAS, Venezuela (ViaNews) – The high rates of insecurity in South America are longstanding. This is a constantly changing phenomenon and dependent on many variables such as political leadership, social organization quality and cohesion, unemployment rate, and economic stability.

Police clashes at Puente de Las Mercedes. 2017. Photo by: Jamez42.
Police clashes at Puente de Las Mercedes. 2017. Photo by: Jamez42.CC BY-SA 4.0

The increase of criminal activities in Venezuela has increased dramatically over the last 20 years. It seems to be a big and complex phenomenon that goes unabated and is one of the most critical and worrying national problems constantly affecting the population.

Insecurity can be plainly felt in the appearance of organized mafias or petty crime. The latter being the one that abounds in the streets and is mostly (but not only) committed by two people riding a motorcycle, which makes it easier to quickly and timely escape the crime scene. Violence commonly accompanies these practices, being common the use of bladed weapons and firearms.

We are talking about urban insecurity in Caracas, although it is important to mention the other Venezuelan states suffering similar crime levels way above the threshold of normality.

According to the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence, of the world’s fifty most violent cities, seven are in Venezuela (following the information of the Citizen Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice) and Caracas topped the list in 2016. The other six Venezuelan cities are Maturin, Ciudad Guayana, Valencia, Barquisimeto, Cumaná, and Barcelona.

Various sources indicate that the number of deaths in the country increased from 4,550 in 1998 to 28,479 in 2016, according to the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence. This clearly denotes an overwhelming and unstoppable increasing that are affecting all spheres of citizen’s daily life.

Intuitively, those of us who make life in the streets of Caracas know where to go and where not, at what hours, what kind of transportation, and always making sure not to walk alone. These situations have become common practice, besides not being normal.

The common criminality is mostly interested in stealing technological artifacts that have an illegal market outlet: smartphones, tablets, laptops, and so on. This happens because the denomination of the coin is so low (for the day 11/18/2017 US$1 is equivalent to 73,000 VEF, and the largest denomination banknote is 100,000 VEF, being approximately US$1.4). This means that the theft of valuable items is more valuable than stealing cash.

Thefts happen anytime and anywhere and it really does not have a peak hour in Venezuela. It is common that “malandros” or “choros” (as robbers are called colloquially) are hanging around in public transportation (bus, subways and so on), walking on the streets or squares, traffic jams, large queues to buy regulated products (given the scarcity, the population spend most of their daily time waiting to see if they can buy some basic food), or even in conglomerates of people.

The thefts in the cities are intimately related to a fundamental social problem, that is clear. The consequences are quite diverse in nature, such as:

  • 1) Partial decrease of tourists, which in turn generates a significant loss of national income. Despite the fact that there is a great number of natural beauties and tourist attractions in the country.
  • 2) Strong migrations, since entire families have been strongly affected.
  • 3) High social instability.
  • 4) Rapid urban growth in contexts of vulnerability.

In general, it is public and notorious that this phenomenon afflicts the Venezuelan population while the Police forces seem unable to counter and reduce this critical situation.


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