On June 13, more than 200 police officers occupied residences that were in the power of members of the Mara 18 (M-18) gang, on the southern outskirts of the Honduran capital, AFP journalists confirmed.
Under the command of Commissioner Abencio Flores, the police officers entered the houses, some of which had M-18 graffiti, but were abandoned in the 14 de Marzo neighborhood.
“They didn’t live here, they threw the local residents out of the residences and occupied them in order to occasionally come to plan their criminal operations,” the commissioner explained, while the police officers took possession of the residences.
“The residences remain in police custody; we’re going to assign permanent personnel, so that the local residents recover peace and tranquility,” the commissioner emphasized.
Gang members not only control neighborhoods and developments in several cities around the country, but have also taken over taxis and buses, forcing the owners, under death threats, to transfer the vehicles to their names in the official registers.
According to a study commissioned by the state National Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Social Reinsertion Program (PNPRRS), there are around 4,728 gang members in Honduras.
According to the investigation, although that number has fallen from around 30,000 members 12 years ago, as a result of “anti-gang” laws, the groups are resurging, having “perfected” and “strengthened” themselves upon moving into drug trafficking, contract killings, and kidnappings.
The most numerous gangs are Mara 18 (M-18), with 2,047 members (48 percent), and its similarly feared rival Mara Salvatrucha, with 2,104 members (49 percent), according to the study,
Other gangs are Mara Organizada Ganster, West Side, and Mara 61, with a greater presence in the northern city of San Pedro Sula, the country’s second-largest city and considered the most violent in the world.