Amid Growing Violence, Venezuelans Take Extreme Security Measures

TODAY VENEZUELA – In the first two weeks of December, Venezuela’s capital city registered over 200 deaths in what is shaping up to be a year of record homicides as wealthier residents react by investing thousands of dollars in additional security measures.

Venezuelans pay thousands to armor their cars

Between December 1 and December 14, 222 cadavers were brought to the Bello Monte morgue in Caracas, reported El Universal. Over the last weekend, between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning, the city saw at least 25 deaths.

In response to high homicide levels, citizens in Venezuela are spending thousands of dollars on electric fences, security cameras, armored vehicles, and panic buttons, reported El Nacional. In Caracas alone, there are ten companies dedicated to converting regular cars into armored vehicles. One of these companies — which charges $20,000 dollars to install basic defenses — reported receiving 40 calls a month from individuals interested in armoring their vehicles.

According to El Nacional, residents are also installing GPS systems in their cars so they can locate them in the event of a robbery, as well as systems that allow owners to remotely deactivate their vehicles. Some families are also hiring bodyguards to take their children to school.

Although El Universal did not specify how many of the 222 cadavers were murder victims, there are indications that 2014 could end up being a record year for homicides in Venezuela. However, the government is unlikely to admit this. Anti-government protests earlier this year, coupled with a worsening economic situation, precipitated a security crisis as protesters clashed with law enforcement and armed collectives. Meanwhile, the country’s role as a transit nation for Colombian cocaine shipments, and the alleged involvement of security forces in illegal activity, have undoubtedly worsened the security situation.

Official figures are unlikely to reflect these factors. Venezuela is known for doctoring its crime statistics and will like continue to do so for 2014. In September, Venezuela’s interior minister claimed homicides had fallen by 18 percent in the first 34 weeks of the year.

Instead, the degree of violence and crime is reflected in the extreme measures Venezuelans are taking to protect themselves. The government’s apparent inability to protect its citizens — coupled with a lack of trust in the police — has led residents to invest thousands of dollars in security measures.

Unfortunately, the situation is unlikely to improve in 2015. Plummeting oil prices have further weakened Venezuela’s economy, and political unrest will undoubtedly continue to create fertile ground for criminal activity.