Combating Organized Crime in the Region
By Dialogo July 01, 2010
Authorities in Honduras are encouraging citizens to immediately call their local police rather than national law enforcement when pressured by extortionists.
San Pedro Sula’s La Prensa newspaper reports that the new approach is giving citizens personalized attention by allowing a police chief or deputy police chief to walk the victim through the process without giving in to the criminal.
Cellular companies are also working closely with police to use mobile technology to locate criminals, and prison officials are activating devices that block cellular signals from within prison walls.
Venezuela now has stronger laws to address extortion and kidnappings in the country. The National Assembly passed a law in June 2009 to hand down penalties of 20 to 30 years in prison for kidnapping, and 5 to 10 years for attempted kidnapping. President Hugo Chávez — himself a kidnapping victim during an April 2002 coup attempt — called the new law “complete” by drawing on everyone involved in the struggle against kidnapping in his country.
Prior to the law, Venezuela did not possess a legal definition for confronting the crimes, according to the state Bolivarian News Agency.
Micro-extortion and turf control have grown rapidly in the past two years in Colombia, especially in the department of Antioquia, according to a news release from DAS, the Colombian security agency. In June, the agency began the “Una sola llamada basta” (“Just one call is enough”) publicity campaign to encourage citizens to report extortion immediately, no matter how small the amount of money.
Working together with the agency against kidnapping, the DAS agency against extortion is helping solve eight in 10 reported cases, according to Colombia’s El Tiempo newspaper. The security agency reports that many people mistakenly believe they cannot report extortion if it is for a small amount.
The ramped-up effort against extortionists came after a January 2009 executive order from then Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, who called for the creation of an elite body to confront extortion. Intelligence and personnel were drawn from the Army, police, security forces and district attorney’s office in creating the interagency force to identify extortion cases in each sector of the economy and to facilitate the capture of extortionists.