Bogotá: profiling a security plan that is integrated and participatory
The numbers speak volumes. From being considered the most violent city in Latin America in the 1990’s, with a homicide rate of 80 per hundred thousand inhabitants and seven million inhabitants, Bogotá witnessed a 71% drop in its murder rate in 10 years to 23 homicides per hundred thousand inhabitants. The expected rate for 2006 is approximately 18 homicides per hundred thousand inhabitants.
The change is the result of an integrated and participatory security policy first adopted in 1995 and carried through the next two administrations. These were the first of Bogotá’s administrations to frame security problems locally, from the ground up.
Bogotá’s homicide rate today ranks below urban centers such as Caracas (133), Washington (62), Rio de Janeiro (50), São Paulo (39), Panama City (27) and Mexico City (27)*
According to Sociologist Hugo Acero Velásquez, who headed the Bogotá’s Sub-Office for Security for 8 years, the secret for a successful security plan is the participation of all sectors of society.
Present in Rio de Janeiro for a Police Training Course held at the NGO Viva Rio, and consultant for the United Nations Development Program, UNDP, Hugo Acero said that all the different institutions pitched in for the improvement of security in Bogotá.
“It was not just a question of involving law enforcement and Justice. We had to ask other questions too: How many schools are present in that location? How many children are going to school? What access to health services is there in that place? Is there adequate lighting? Is the garbage being picked up?” said Acero.
Em In 1994 the capital of Colombia registered 4352 homicides. In 2004 the number dropped to 1582 and it is expected that 2006 will record close to 1200 homicides. In the same period the investment in security rose from five million dollars to 52 million dollars, funding that came from a hike in taxes. Two new taxes were created, a discretionary surtax incorporated to property tax, and a compulsory tax on telephones.
The money was invested in police training in citizen security and equipment. New police vehicles (cars, motorcycles, and bicycles), communications equipment were bought and new police stations were built. “We trained the police in community relations and focused on providing quality service to citizens,” said Acero.
There was however, no corresponding increase in the number of police officers. Bogotá has had the same 10500 men from the beginning. Evidence that police training worked also comes from citizen response: in 1992 only 17% of the population expressed trust in the police, while 75% trusted the police in 2006.
Bogotá’s security plan was created based mapping urban violence in the region. Data analysis showed, for example, that 74% of the homicides occurred between 6pm and 6am, and 65% of these killings took place in 92 of Bogotá’s 1600 neighborhoods.
According to Hugo Acero effective crime fighting depends on understanding local crime patterns. “We now know where and when most crimes take place, and even the color of cars that are most stolen,” said Acero.
Bogotá’s security plan was conceived based on the following principles:
- The municipality’s highest administrative authority takes charge of the institutional management of the issue.
- Reliable information
- A plan to cover both security and convivência (or community relations)
- Improved access to justice for citizens
- Care for youths involved in violence and drug abuse
- Improved community relations and the recovery of public spaces deemed crucial
- Restricted hours for the consumption of alcohol (Hora Zanahoria)
- Disarmament (Gun Control)
-Care for those displaced from their homes due to the violence
-Strengthening Criminal Investigation
* Source: Revista América Economía 2004 y 2003. Instituto de Medicina Legal y Ciencias Forenses. Colômbia. 2004.
Bogotá's Success story, an article by Hugo Acero