Honduran Armed Forces Cooperate with Police to Reduce Violence
By Dialogo July 08, 2015I like what you are doing
Homicides have been steadily decreasing in Honduras as a result of increased cooperation among the Armed Forces, the National Police, and other criminal justice officials.
The country registered a 17 percent drop in violent deaths during the first five months of this year compared to the same period in 2014 -- from 2,642 last year down to 2,203 in 2015. That change continues an ongoing decline in homicides that began in 2011, when Honduras register 7,104 killings for the year. By the end of last year, that number had dropped to 5,891 for 2014.
“This success is due to all the organizations that are fighting to reduce the violent death rate,” said Artillery Colonel José Antonio Sánchez Aguilar, Armed Forces Public Relations Director. “This decrease is the result of the security policies of President Juan Orlando Hernández to organize task forces throughout the country.”
As of early June, the nation's homicide rate was 27.29 per 100,000 residents, a dramatic improvement from the 33.23 killings per 100,000 residents the country recorded during the same time in 2014. The Department of Security’s goal is to lower the rate of killings to about 23 per 100,000 residents by the end of 2015, said Deputy Police Commissioner Leonel Sauceda, spokesman for the Department of Security.
“We are thrilled that the 2015 Global Peace Index removed Honduras from the list of the five most violent countries in Latin America,” said Sauceda, referring to the study published yearly since 2007 by the Institute for Economics and Peace measuring the level of peace and the absence of violence in a country or region.
FUSINA’s role in improving public safety
Improving the country's ranking in the Global Peace Index and overall public safety has been a collaborative effort between the Armed Forces and civilian law enforcement officials. For example, the Interagency National Security Force (FUSINA), created in February 2014, has had a direct impact on the decrease in violence. FUSINA brings together the efforts of the Armed Forces and National Police together with judges, investigation agents, and prosecutors against organized crime, drug trafficking, and common offenses. Under their leadership, Armed Forces Troops and police officers conduct security patrols and man checkpoints throughout the country. FUSINA forces are confronting violent gangs, like Barrio 18 (M-18) and Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and transnational criminal organizations which engage in international drug trafficking.
“When the country faced powerful threats, all possible agencies got involved in the fight to confront domestic and international crime, which has enormous resources,” Colonel Sánchez said. Anti-crime operations conducted all over the country are directly related to the reduction in the number of violent deaths.
For example, since January 1, FUSINA forces and other law enforcement officers have arrested more than 800 people suspected of participating in extortion schemes. Overall, since the beginning of the year, the Military and police have executed 1,634 arrest warrants for various crimes and broken up 55 criminal gangs.
Targeting gangs is important because these violent groups are responsible for much of the violence in the country. “Many of the violent deaths are caused by conflicts between drug trafficking groups, territorial rivalries or disputes between gangs and other criminal groups, as well as the sale and distribution of drugs, extortion collections [war tax], hitmen, and common offenses,” Sauceda said.
The Military and police have also improved public safety by launching security initiatives in penitentiaries, such as transferring gang leaders to maximum security prisons where they have less access to smuggling. Some incarcerated gang leaders have been known to use cellphones that were illegally smuggled into prison.
Cooperation yields positive results
The coordination between the Armed Forces, civilian law enforcement officers on the streets of Honduras, and prison authorities responsible for the decrease in violence serves as a deterrent to organized crime operatives as well as common criminals.
“These partnerships can yield great results in the fight on crime,” said Allan Fajardo, a security analyst at the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH). “The decrease in the murder rate in Honduras is a positive step in the right direction.”
Security will continue to improve with continued cooperation between the Armed Forces and law enforcement agencies. "The Armed Forces have a very significant presence in communities," Deputy Commissioner Sauceda said, "because they conduct important operations, dismantling groups and capturing drug trafficking or organized crime kingpins." Partnerships and support from friendly nations such as the United States and Colombia are fundamental for combating the crisis of crime and violence that Honduras is experiencing, he added.
“If we continue our teamwork, we envision great change through a reduction in all crimes and violent death rates, since, as a society and as a system, we realize we must work as a team and transparently.”