More deaths by firearms in 2009
According to a report from the Legal Medicine Institute 47 people were shot and killed in January 2009 in comparison with 28 for the sam...
According to a report from the Legal Medicine Institute 47 people were shot and killed in January 2009 in comparison with 28 for the same period in 2008, showing an increase of 59 percent, which is a figure that worries the National Police and the Public Ministry.
The police believe the surge in violence could be the product of gang related fights and revenge killing among drug dealers.
The murders in which knives were involved also took a hike from two in January 2008 to five in January 2009. Over the last 12 months the levels of insecurity in the country have prompted the police to carry out search operation in different areas of the capital city such as Curundu, Chorrillo, Panama Viejo, Pedregal and even in the more gentrified areas of San Francisco, Marbella and Costa del Este, where recently a Colombian national was gunned down by two men driving a motorcycle.
Last Thursday the police seized six firearms in different parts of the country and a 17-year-old minor was arrested for having in his possession a 38-caliber revolver with five live bullets in the San Miguelito district. Another 15 year old was carrying a 38-caliber revolver with live ammunition at 10:15 a.m. in the middle of the city center, close to a supermarket. The police are finding more and more minors are being detained for concealing firearms and knives in different parts of the country and they suspect that the majority of them belong to gangs or are being used by drugs traffickers to commit felonies. With more firearms on the street, the number of robberies are escalating.
According to statistics of the Panama Tourism Authority, there were a total of 647 crimes against tourists, in 2008. Some 93 of them were robbed at gunpoint in different parts of the country, a trend that could seriously affect the image of Panama as a destination. The authorities have increased police presence in sites of interest and hotel areas, but they appear not to have enough units to tackle the wave of crime.
Another modus operandi that is worrying the population is so called express kidnappings, where the victim and vehicle are taken at gunpoint. Then the criminals drive the owner around the city to ATMs to empty the accounts.
In a recent case a man who had his mother and two children in his car was overpowered by three men waving a gun. The robbers warned they were going to shoot the children if he did not withdraw money from his debit and credit cards. After an ordeal that lasted several hours the man and his family were abandoned beaten and frightened in one of the worst parts of San Miguelito, where eventually a Good Samaritan came to their rescue.
The National Police are trying to create programs, with the help of the United States government to prevent minors joining gangs, but it is still on its early days. Meanwhile the number of illegal firearms appears to be on the increase, despite the efforts of the authorities, who almost every day mount special operations to try to stop the violence.